Democrats are introducing legislation to crack down on organized retail theft and online resellers

(Ethan Swope/Getty Images)

Democrats are introducing legislation to crack down on organized retail theft and online resellers

California Politics

Anabel Sosa

February 15, 2024

Two top Democrats in the California Legislature announced a multipronged plan Thursday to address the recent wave of organized thefts that have tarnished the state’s national reputation and tormented retailers.

The legislative package, authored by Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Assembly Member Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Los Angeles), will target so-called organized retail crime gangs, which are blamed for the increase in high-profile companies. , smash-and-grab incidents plaguing California.

Rivas and Zbur, chairman of the Select Committee on Retail Theft, said details of the legislation will be released on Friday, adding to a list of expected 15 to 20


bills that also tackle retail crime.

The lawmaker said that


package was inspired in part by some governors. Gavin Newsom’s suggestions for legislation to combat the crimes. This month, Newsom sent 120 California Highway Patrol officers to Oakland as part of a new state law enforcement campaign aimed at a rise in violent crime and theft that has increased criticism of California’s criminal justice policies.

If passed, the bill would criminalize what the legislation calls “professional shoplifters,” raising possible prison sentences of up to three years. Under the legislation, thieves could be prosecuted for the total value of items stolen in a series of crimes, even if there were individual victims. It would also target the resale of stolen goods, including items sold online.

Major retailers would be required to provide theft data, likely to a government agency, although the details are unclear, while protecting consumer information. A major setback in solving retail crime is the lack of data, largely due to under-reporting by retailers who say it takes too long to report it to police.

The bill would also expand diversion programs and tools for police to make arrests based on witness statements or surveillance videos.

Recently, Mayors London Breed of San Francisco and Matt Mahan of San Jose approved a ballot measure that would reform Proposition 47, an initiative voters passed a decade ago to reduce mass incarceration by reclassifying a number of crimes, including shoplifting as crimes. The proposal increased the amount for which theft can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor from $400 to $950.

Incidents of retail crime hit the San Francisco Bay Area hard between 2020 and 2022, but the city saw a decline in these crimes last year. In the first three weeks of the year, property crime fell by 41%.

While lieutenant governor, Newsom supported Proposition 47 and recently said he opposed asking voters to reform the measure. The governor believes the thefts can be addressed through legislation.

And Rivas and Zbur convey the same message.

“I’m most interested in doing it right,” Rivas said. “We know this is a problem. We don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction and Prop. 47 to blame.”


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