NEW YORK -

Racial profiling claims at New York department stores are highlighting the wide latitude that laws nationwide give retailers to hold and fine suspected shoplifters.
   
More than $12 billion is lost to shoplifting each year. State laws vary on strictness and maximum fines that stores can charge to try to recoup losses. Suspects can be held liable even if they haven't technically stolen anything or criminal charges are dropped.
   
In New York, retailers may collect as much as $1,500 if the merchandise can't be resold. At Macy's flagship store, suspects are held in cells, asked to sign an admission of guilt and sometimes pay hundreds in fines.
   
Customers say in lawsuits they were bullied into paying on the spot or harassed with letters demanding payment.
   
Macy's says it uses the law legally.