California Lawmakers Proposed Sweeping Measures to Combat Organized Retail Theft

On Thursday, lawmakers of the California State Assembly released a comprehensive package of measures designed to combat organized retail theft.

Among the proposals is a provision that would create a new crime with a maximum three-year prison sentence for the intent to sell stolen property.

Three Democratic members of the state Assembly, Speaker Robert Rivas of Salinas, Rick Chavez Zbur of Los Angeles, and Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, sponsored the package known as the California Retail Theft Reduction Act.

Rivas referred to the package as “crucial legislation” in the fight against a “serious crime” that is harming businesses throughout the state at a news conference on Thursday to announce the new measures.

During the conference, Rivas stated, “Organized retail theft is having a chilling effect on our communities. Crime, like everything, evolves. And criminal enterprises are using new and different ways to get around current prohibitions.”

Zbur stated during the same appearance that the three-year jail sentence that goes along with the idea of establishing a new felony for the purpose of selling stolen stuff is intended to target organized crime rings of “professional retail thieves primarily.”

According to the assemblyman, having a quantity of stolen goods that is “inconsistent with personal use” or committing repeated infractions could be grounds for proving intent.

The bill would also enable officials to combine the amount of goods taken from several stores so that grand theft charges, rather than charges for small-time theft, could be brought against shoplifters.

Police would be able to apprehend shoplifters based on witness evidence or security footage.

Online vendors would have to maintain documentation proving that the products they offer were obtained lawfully, and some major retailers would have to provide the state with information on thefts.

California Lawmakers Proposed Sweeping Measures to Combat Organized Retail Theft (1)

The law originated from the Assembly’s Select Committee on Retail Theft, which Rivas ordered established at the end of the previous year.

Zbur chairs the select committee, and its members include McCarty, the chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, and Rivas.

Retail theft has been a major concern for state legislators and law enforcement authorities alike, particularly high-profile “smash-and-grabs.”

Governor Gavin Newsom dispatched 120 California Highway Patrol troopers to Oakland and other East Bay communities earlier this month in response to an increase in certain crimes, such as retail theft, in the region.

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According to a Public Policy Institute of California report published in September, there was a statewide increase in theft, business burglaries, and commercial robberies between the years 2012 and 2022.

The data also revealed that the Bay Area saw the largest increase in shoplifting rates between 2019 and 2022, with San Mateo and San Francisco counties witnessing startling increases of 53% and 24%, respectively, throughout the four years.

The Proposition 47 threshold, which increased the amount of a crime that can be punished as a felony from $400 to $950, is not altered by this measure.

Prop. 47, which was approved by voters in 2014, is being held accountable by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, and other legislators in the state for the rise in retail crime.

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