JCNF Op-EdAppeared in Arizona Daily Star on March 25, 2024By Carlos Ruiz

Local opinion: Elevated crime is a tax on small businesses

The consequences of the Biden administration’s soft-on-crime agenda extend well beyond media headlines and political stump speeches. As an Arizona entrepreneur and witness to the unfolding situation, I’ve seen first-hand how this crisis is inflicting undue strain on Main Street.

Entrepreneurs and shop owners are confronting a surge in crimes that directly impact their operations, notably fueled by the spread of fentanyl and the operations of sophisticated retail theft gangs. This crisis has become an overwhelming burden, notably for those operating on the front lines in our local communities.

According to a scientific poll conducted by the Job Creators Network Foundation (JCNF), nearly one-third of small businesses with brick-and-mortar locations report that rising crime has directly increased their operating costs. The crisis is no longer an abstract problem discussed in political circles but a tangible threat to the livelihoods of many. The impact of this surge in criminal activities is profound, with small businesses bearing the brunt. We call it the “Main Street Crime Tax.”

The surge in crime is multifaceted. It not only endangers the safety of business owners and employees but also deters customers, further strangling local economies. The elevated crime is a tax on businesses, forcing them to invest in enhanced security, higher insurance premiums, and deal with the fallout of decreased consumer traffic.

Small businesses in border states like Arizona have been disproportionately affected by rising crime associated with fentanyl and retail theft. In 2022 alone, Arizona businesses were robbed of an estimated $1.5 billion in merchandise, costing the state $84 million in tax revenue. That same year, over half of all the fentanyl entering the U.S. came through Arizona.

Amid these challenges, the Arizona Legislature is taking proactive steps to combat the scourge of organized retail theft. Last week, the Arizona Senate passed SB 1411. This legislation aims to establish the Organized Retail Theft Task Force under the Attorney General’s office. The task force’s mission is to target crimes related to the theft, embezzlement, or acquisition of retail merchandise through fraud, false pretenses, or other illegal means.

Despite these state-level efforts, the Biden administration could play a more significant role in addressing this crisis. The Executive Branch possesses ample tools to combat the fentanyl wave and protect American businesses and communities. Biden has proved that he doesn’t need Congressional authority to solve the issue. On Day 1 of his presidency, Biden issued dozens of executive orders to reverse President Trump’s effective border security measures.

I urge President Biden to reconsider the permissive policies that have marked his tenure. The stakes are high, and the impact is wide-reaching. The crime spike is not just a headline or a political talking point; it’s a real issue with tangible effects on small business owners across the country.

It’s time for the Biden administration to take decisive action and reduce the crime tax facing American small businesses.

Carlos Ruiz is the owner of HT Metals in Tucson and a partner of the Job Creators Network Foundation.