Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot’s office usually buffers him from local press, but last month he gave a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post, including comments on why he is not prosecuting some shoplifters.
The Washington Post’s longtime crime reporter, Tom Jackman, did not waste much time before asking the district attorney about his controversial decision not to prosecute some shoplifters.
Prior to DA Creuzot taking office, thefts less than $100 went to municipal court, bypassing the district attorney’s office. About three years ago, Creuzot decided to increase that limit from $100 to $750. With these changes, Dallas County DA Creuzot’s office no longer prosecutes individuals accused of stealing property valued at less than $750.
Jackman asked if not prosecuting such cases gives people the green light to walk into stores and leave with $749 worth of stolen goods.
“There were a lot of small businesses who felt like this gives people, you know, carte blanche to come into [their] store[s] and take stuff,” observed Jackman.
“Yes,” replied Creuzot.
“So, it’s been three years. How has it gone?” asked Jackman.
“Well, so we’re talking about food, diapers, formula, things like that. We’re not talking about people who are thieves, who are boosters, and what have you. So, first of all, it’s unlikely that you can get food over $100 if you’re in a small store. It just doesn’t happen, and so what we’ve actually found is the number has not changed,” responded Creuzot.
From January 1 to August 31 of 2022, Dallas County reported 20,325 larceny and theft offenses, according to DallasOpenData, representing a 14.40% increase over the number reported in the same period of 2019. Such crimes were 11.83% higher in August 2022 than in January 2019, when Creuzot took office.
The Dallas Express asked if Creuzot was saying it is okay to steal necessities.
“Of course, DA Creuzot does not think it is ‘okay to steal.’ DA Creuzot’s policy regarding Class B Misdemeanor thefts is aimed at refraining from prosecuting someone simply for being poor. This policy focuses on a very narrow class of offense — thefts of necessary items valued between $100-$750. These are thefts that are not for financial gain,” Creuzot’s spokesperson told The Dallas Express.
“Furthermore, our office continues to prosecute many other thefts and robberies vigorously… our office continues to accept 99% of misdemeanor theft cases for prosecution,” the spokesperson added.
However, not everyone agrees that stealing food, diapers, and other necessities is harmless. The outcry was loud and clear.
When Creuzot announced the procedure change in 2019, the largest police union in the state, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, demanded that the district attorney resign. The Texas governor and attorney general immediately condemned his decision at the time.
In an interview with NBC, Governor Abbott said the decision was “reckless and irresponsible.”
Governor Abbott continued, saying, “That is legalizing stealing for property less than $750. What kind of message does that send, for one? But for another, listen, if your district attorney wants to change the law, he is in the wrong job. He needs to run for the legislature and come here to try to change the law.”
Note: This article was updated on Tuesday, September 13, at 7:04 p.m. to include additional information.