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Home » Chemung County » Sen. O’Mara blasts lack of harsher penalties, $45M plan to address retail crime after deputy seriously hurt in Chemung County

Sen. O’Mara blasts lack of harsher penalties, $45M plan to address retail crime after deputy seriously hurt in Chemung County

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In his weekly column State Sen. Tom O’Mara, who represents the Southern Tier and portion of the Finger Lakes, sounded off on the plight of retail crime in New York.

In an alarming incident that highlights the growing problem in New York, Chemung County Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Theetge was critically injured. The 35-year-old officer was struck by a getaway vehicle while pursuing a suspect in a retail theft operation at a Target store in Big Flats, near State Sen. Tom O’Mara’s home, on the evening of Friday, March 30.

Theetge, who suffered a skull fracture and brain bleeding, remains hospitalized in critical condition. The community has rallied in support, with calls for donations to aid Theetge’s family during this challenging time.

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Sen. O’Mara voiced his concern over the increasing trend of retail theft not only in urban areas but also in rural regions like the Southern Tier.

This growing issue, attributed to lenient policies on crime and punishment, has made retail workers fear for their safety, with a staggering 80 percent concerned about potential active shooter situations. O’Mara criticized the reluctance of Albany Democrats to strengthen criminal penalties, a sentiment that counters the stance of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who believe harsher penalties do not deter crime.

The situation has sparked a broader debate on how to effectively combat retail theft and other crimes, with Governor Kathy Hochul proposing a $45-million plan to address the issue, including establishing a state-level task force and increasing funding for local law enforcement.

However, without the support for increased criminal penalties, many question the efficacy of these measures. The incident and the response from state officials underscore the complex challenges New York faces in curbing retail theft and ensuring public safety.