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by Peter Moskos

February 19, 2010

A felony just ain't what it used to be!

Lost in all the talk about the NYPD juking the stats is the simple fact that each and every year, the value of felony theft ("grand larceny" in NY State) goes down with inflation.

New York State defines felony grand larceny (§155.30) as over $1,000. And this is where it's been for the past 25 years.

This makes the 64% reduction in grand larceny over the past 20 years all the more impressive since inflation alone has stripped almost 40% of a felony's value.

By lowering the value of a felony, we're cheapening its meaning and labeling more and more people as felons. And is harmful and costly for all of us.

$1,000 today is closer to the $275 a felony larceny was raised from in 1986 (and where it was from 1965 to 1986). To keep the value of a felony consistent, it's time to raise the dollar amount to $1,600 - $1,900. But since this figures stick with us for 20 or 30 years, why not jack it up to an even two-grand?

Last time we did this, serious felony crime in New York City decreased 11% overnight. And this despite rising crime!

Here's to a $2,000 felony! Let the movement start here.

[Thanks to a police officer for raising this question and to a John Jay librarian who dug up this hard-to-find information on a moment's notice! Ain't librarians grand?!]

p.s. While we're at it, maybe it's time to adjust that "$20" figure in the 9th Amendment, too.


David Bratzer said...

In Canada, theft over $5000 is an indictable (more serious) offence while theft under $5000 is a dual offence that usually proceeds summarily in court (ie. less serious). However, I sometimes review criminal records of prisoners who have lengthy criminal records (over a period of twenty or thirty or forty years). It is not uncommon to see convictions for "theft under $200" or similar amounts for a conviction from decades ago. I'm surprised that the bar for a felony in New York is only set at $1000.

PCM said...

In Maryland, at least when I moved to New York, it was even lower.

Marc said...

Considering where the CPI has gone in just the last 2 years, the inflation adjusted figure is already probably a lot closer to $2000 than you think

PCM said...

It's $500 in Maryland.