BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (KTUL) – Police said an increase in theft is correlated with State Question 780 and 781 that went into effect July 1, 2017. The new law changed certain nonviolent drug and theft-related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
Officer James Koch said they know this is a problem in Broken Arrow and continue to see car break-ins and shoplifting crimes spike across their city.
“They’ll steal a couple of hundreds worth of merchandise, and these suspects aren’t afraid to do that, because the laws have changed,” he said.
Before, if someone stole more than $500 worth of items it was a felony. Now, it has to be more than a $1,000 worth of items, otherwise it’s still a misdemeanor.
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“Since the law changed, criminals are essentially able to steal twice as much as they were able to before,” said Koch.
Police said many of these thieves are going around and simply opening unlocked cars or using tools to break the glass.
Josh Bollig is still trying to find the person who broke into his truck.
“Everything was scattered all over the truck,” he said. “The console and the glove box was emptied out.”
He filed a police report, but it still doesn’t make the break-in any better.
“Right now, it’s somebody opening up a car door but what’s next,” asked Bollig. “Over the last six, eight, months, year, it’s gotten worse and worse and worse.”
He said he also sees the correlation between the laws changing and the new crime spree.
“You make it a misdemeanor, it’s not necessarily a slap on the wrist per say, but at the same time, you’re just making it easier and easier for them to continue what they are doing,” said Bollig.
Seeing more people affected by these break-ins, Bollig is asking for people to be vigilant to stop these thieves.
“We all work,” he said. “We go to work 40, 50, 60 hours per week to buy the things we have and to have the things that we have all for somebody to simply open a door up and take it and with little to no repercussion. To me, the incarceration rate is a problem, but at the same time, people have to learn their lessons.”
Police said they continue to see the same people getting arrested and fined for these thefts, but it isn’t stopping them from bailing out of jail and doing it again.
“These people, if they are getting arrested or getting fined, they get out, back at it very quickly,” said Koch. “Sometimes the very next week, and in some cases, the very next day. So, they aren’t afraid to go out and commit these crimes, because the laws aren’t as strict as they used to be.”
Officers said to always file a police report if this happens to you and be aware. Cameras and alarms are also a good idea.
Police are trying to decrease car break-ins by kicking off a new campaign called, “Remove it! Lock it! Report it!” encouraging people to check to make sure their car doors are locked at all times.