Bills addressing arson, retail theft get support of North Carolina Senate

Published 7:13 am Tuesday, June 7, 2022

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New arson crimes and higher penalties for current offenses related to setting buildings on fire received overwhelming support in the state Senate on Monday night.

The measure, a version of which passed the House last year, would create new felony crimes for setting fire to a prison, an occupied commercial structure and an unoccupied commercial structure. And someone who commits arson also would face a felony if a first responder suffers a “serious injury” because of it.

The measure, which was approved 42-1 and now returns to the House for further consideration, also would require applicants for paid or volunteer fire department jobs to submit to criminal background checks. Any applicant found to have been convicted of arson or a similar felony conviction related to burning or setting a fire couldn’t be hired.

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The Senate also voted unanimously on Monday for a measure that attempts to crack down on large, organized thefts at stores. The legislation would create even more serious felonies of “organized retail theft” when the value of property stolen over a 90-day period exceeds $50,000.

And anyone who assaults a store worker or law enforcement officer while committing such theft would be subject to the most serious class of misdemeanor, the bill says.

The measure also attempts to regulate high-volume third-party sellers of merchandise at online marketplace sites. It would require such sellers to provide certain contact and identifying information to a marketplace operator, which would be obliged to suspend the seller if they refuse or provide false information.

The retail theft bill is backed by the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association as well as associations representing the state’s district attorneys, sheriffs and chiefs of police, according to Sen. Danny Britt, a Robeson County Republican and bill sponsor. A separate, somewhat different version of the measure passed the House unanimous last week.