Friday, January 6, 2017

Inside TN: State rep. says organized retail crime a problem in Knoxville

From left: becker, Zachary, Daniel
Organized retail crime, a possible gas tax increase and matters tied to higher education.

Those are just a handful of the issues to be addressed during Sunday’s edition of “Inside Tennessee” on WBIR 10News.
The guests are 14th District state Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, and 18th District state Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville.

The discussion comes as the General Assembly plans to convene again on Jan. 10.

At the top of the list for Zachary is passing an “organized retail crime” bill, something he’s crafted with local law enforcement, Home Depot and other lawmakers.

“Most people don’t realize that Knoxville is the No. 1 city in the nation for gift card theft and abuse,” he said. “It’s truly organized retail crime. You’ll have two people go to a Home Depot. One person goes in and steals a blower and comes out, and the other person goes in and returns it. So, the state loses tax dollars.”

The person who returns the item will get a gift card from the store which can be sold on the secondary market.

Zachary noted that arrests authorities made the week before Christmas netted roughly $50,000 in stolen merchandise.

He said most of the retail crime happens in West Knox County, particularly the Turkey Creek shopping complex because of its easy access to the interstate. 

The National Retail Federation notes that such crimes usually include a criminal enterprise employing individuals to steal large quantities of merchandise from a number of stores, and then a fencing operations coverts the items into cash. The items also can be sold online, at flea markets or even to other retailers.

Zachary and Daniel also said keeping an eye on the state’s $925 million budgetary surplus and whether to raise the state’s gas tax also will be two key issues this year.

“Everything depends on the details but the people of the district are telling me transportation is so important for business, tourism and safety . . . and they’re telling me they’re OK for up to a 10 cent per gallon tax increase,” said Daniel, adding that cars that use diesel fuel, batteries and hybrids “need to be brought in to pay their fair share.”

Zachary added that he recently polled his district and that 55 percent of the residents were opposed to an increase.

The tax increase, proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam, would help pay for some $6 billion in transportation infrastructure backlog.

In addition, Martin said he wants to reduce regulations “that impact individuals and businesses,” and he wants to call for an “efficiency audit” for higher education across the state.

The 30-minute political and public affairs program, which was taped Thursday, kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on WBIR.

Panelists include attorney Don Bosch, governmental relations expert Susan Williams and Theotis Robinson Jr., retired vice president of equity and diversity of the University of Tennessee system.
WBIR Anchor John Becker serves as the show’s moderator.


R. Neal said...

I missed the show, but I'm confused. Aren't shoplifting and fraud already illegal? And racketeering?

Mike Donila said...

I missed the show, too, but I think when you put them all together . . . it creates a fancy new crime.

Mike Donila said...

And, no, I wasn't being sarcastic.