April 20, 2023
Representative (NY-11), U.S. Congress
Evan H. Jenkins
Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Across the country, both small and large businesses have felt the impact of organized crime. Particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have seen a rise in crimes committed in their communities and are struggling to find ways to counter these acts.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s America’s Crime Wave event, leaders and government officials discussed the rising crime rate nationwide. They examined how the increase in organized retail crime has impacted communities, including their businesses and consumers, across the country and shared solutions to fight back.
'Prosecutors Need to Prosecute' to Curtail Crime
According to U.S. Representative Nicole Malliotakis, crime is on the rise both in her district and around the country — with New York City seeing an increase of 63,000 shoplifting complaints. Specifically in her city, Malliotakis attributes this rise in crime to two things: New York State’s 2020 bail reform legislation and a lack of action from prosecutors in the city.
To counter this uptick in crime, Malliotakis introduced legislation called the Prosecutors Need to Prosecute Act.
“The purpose of my legislation is to bring transparency to what prosecutors are doing or what they're not doing,” Malliotakis said. “It would require prosecutors [in cities above a certain size to] report to the Department of Justice and make [it] available to the public so we, the people, can know how many crimes they're choosing not to prosecute, how many crimes they choose to reduce sentences, [and] how many career criminals are being released back onto our streets.”
In addition to making available the number of violent crimes a district attorney chooses not to prosecute, Malliotakis’s legislation would require district attorneys to share “the number of offenses committed by career criminals.”
Providing Transparency to Voters Can Empower Communities
With the Prosecutors Need to Prosecute Act, Malliotakis hopes her constituents can have a more transparent look at what’s going on in their city so they can make informed decisions on who they want in leadership roles.
“[The legislation gives] the people this information so they can make a decision on whether they want to recall — if their state allows it for a recall law — or if they want to just fire that district attorney in the next election,” Malliotakis said. “It could [also] be used to force them to lose federal funding if they are not actually using those federal funds properly.”
By informing communities of the actions of their prosecutors, Malliotakis believes voters will have more of a voice to hold them accountable and force those in power to address the issue of rising crime.
“I hope that… [by] having this new information and knowing the truth about their prosecutor's records, [people] will be mindful of that at the next election,” Malliotakis shared. “I also think that it could encourage some to launch a recall campaign, or at least give them the information to be able to conduct a recall campaign if their state allows for it… [And I] hope that it continues to shed light on, not just what the prosecutors are not doing, but the fact that these are repeat offenders [who] are going through a revolving door.”
A Lack of Recourse on Crime Has Consequences
When a neighborhood deals with an onset of crime — regardless of size or severity — everybody is affected, from small business owners to the consumers in the area. And without the right recourse, those thieves may feel emboldened to take part in larger-scale crimes over time.
“Smaller crimes lead to larger crimes — and if people can get away with small crimes, they think they can get away with larger crimes,” Malliotakis explained.
As businesses struggle to make ends meet, an act of crime and theft can lead them to raise prices on consumers in an attempt to recoup losses and keep their doors open.
“It is just an attack on the hardworking tax-paying American, and the job creator, and the business that is providing those goods,” Malliotakis said. “They're going to try to make up for the theft that they're losing by maybe increasing prices so they can break even — particularly if it's a business that's just trying to get by month to month.”