Dallas County's new district attorney announced his office will no longer prosecute "theft of necessary items" up to $750.
The announcement drew an immediate reaction from small business owners who are worried that word of the policy will encourage shoplifting.
While the Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot tried to clarify his new policy on Friday, some business owners are worried about what the DA's new policy will mean for them.
Cody Ellison and his business partner own three shops in the Bishop Arts District. The DA's letter to the people of Dallas County does not sit well with him.
“To have the thought of someone being able to come in and steal $750 from us and there be no consequence is unfathomable to me,” Ellison said.
The DA’s letter says: "Criminalizing poverty is counter-productive for our community’s health and safety. For that reason, this office will not prosecute theft of personal items less than $750 unless the evidence shows that the alleged theft was for economic gain."
“They say essentials,” Ellison said. “For us, essentials are clothing. People have to have clothing.”
Ellison questions why the DA set such a high dollar amount for prosecution.
“This is not a victimless crime,” he said.
The district attorney tried to clarify his new policy.
“Maybe I should say consumption items. Maybe we should have put that word in there,” Creuzot said. “We're talking about food and formula that people need to live. Maybe I didn't put enough words in when I said personal items. Maybe I should have said personal consumption items.”
Jason Roberts is the owner of AJ Vagabonds in Bishop Arts. He supports the DA's new policy.
“I would hate to have the worst thing you've done be the flag for who you are as a human being for the rest of your life,” Roberts said.
But business owners like Ellison hope the policy doesn't encourage criminal behavior.
“People are going to become more and more confident with stealing, opening a floodgate for more and more theft in the future,” Ellison said. “If it grows, there will be no more small business owners.”
The district attorney did say that his office is trying to partner with academic institutions to track crime numbers to see if the new policy is causing an increase in crime. Those numbers could prove hard to track though if people stop reporting the crimes.