On January 10, the Brentwood City Council agreed to write a letter of support for Assembly Bill 23, a petty theft bill, once either the Brentwood Police Department or California League of Cities takes a position.
Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) introduced AB 23 in an effort to amend Proposition 47 and reduce the threshold amount for petty theft and shoplifting from $950 to $400. The bill comes after many local businesses across the state are highlighting product loss, repeat shoplifting crimes, and many businesses have shuttered their doors–you also have viral videos. Many police departments are also highlighting repeat offenders in terms of serial shoplifters and package thieves.
In November, Governor Gavin Newsom announced since the creation of California Highway Patrol (CHP) Organized Retail Crime Task Force (ORCTF), the CHP has been involved in 1,296 investigations, the arrest of 645 suspects, and the recovery of 271,697 items of stolen retail merchandise valued at nearly $26 million. Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation, organized retail theft accounts for an estimated $30 billion in economic loss each year nationwide.
Councilmember Jovita Mendoza brought the item forward and urged the council to support it as the California League of Cities is slow to act.
“I think we are all aware of the thefts that are happening all across California because the amount is now $900 and Muratsuchi is hoping to take it back down to $400 to what it was before, so I want to send a letter of support to legislators that we are on board with this,” explained Mendoza.
Mendoza said she received a call from the Downtown Brentwood Coalition and they were excited about this and they began sharing all the thefts they have experienced.
City Manager Tim Ogden said if the position is similar with the League position, he can work with the mayor to sign it while if the mayor think the leagues position doesn’t have merit or applicable to Brentwood, it would go on the council agenda to give direction. Currently, however, with no position taken, there are no support letters drafted and the bill could be amended in the future.
“I would recommend we give it a little more time to see what it looks like in final form before it gets to committees,” said Ogden.
Vice Mayor Susannah Meyer asked if the police department have any hesitation with the current text in the bill.
Chief Tim Herbert responded that under the current text, they have no hesitation but cautioned the bill could change. He also added that he California Police Chiefs Association and other associations have not looked at the bills so no decisions have been made on bills they would support or oppose.
“I would say right now, the bill is written in favor of us,” said Herbert.
Meyer confirmed if the League does not take up the bill, they could use a police association template.
Herbert responded yes.
Mendoza explained her concern with the League of Cities is they drag their feet and take a long time.
“I would like our legislators to know this is something we believe in and our retailers believe in,” said Mendoza who offered maybe they do one now as written and could do another one if its amended. “We wait for others to speak for us and we need to just start bombarding the legislators with our opinions because they are not listening to us, they are listening to their lobbyist. So we have got to be as loud as possible and tell them what we want or don’t want because the lobby money is louder than our letters and we have to make our letters louder than their lobby money.”
Councilmember Pa’tanisha Pierson said she was not in favor of writing a letter explaining she has served as a conflicts attorney and served in the San Francisco DA’s office. She noted she does have some “great issues” with Prop 47 and this bill is coming after Prop 47.
“While I have issues with it, since Prop 47, we have seen that we have had a reduction in recidivism rates and the state saves about $68 million a year in not having people incarcerated for a $500 difference,” explained Pierson.
She further highlighted her experience as a conflicts attorney both before Prop 47 and after. With the $900 amount, she touted it created diversion programs and created theft schools that people have to pay to attend.
“One of my big issues that we did resolve and don’t see much of is the overcrowding of our local jails and prison. If we do reduce the rate, we have people who we as taxpayers will be paying way more money for to sit in jail than the $500 difference,” explained Pierson.
She urged the city to find out a way for local corporations to sign arrest warrants, saying they refuse to sign them, and people are just being let go.
“For theft, these things should be dealt with, however, I don’t think AB 23 as written resolves the issues that we have with theft. It also doesn’t take into account the disparaging difference in sentencing. Sitting as a conflicts attorney, I’ve seen a client who stole diapers not be able to be released on her own recognizance but remain in jail for stealing diapers for her baby versus two young men who had stolen accessible amount of tennis shows who were then released because their families were able to afford representation. So until we see the gap that loses in the disparagement in income, race, ethnicity and gender, I don’t think at this time as a councilmember signing off on a letter for AB 23 without having the league give the deeper dive.”
Pierson said she was appreciative of Mendoza’s recognition that they take time but there is a reason why it takes time such as investigating from a different perspective.
“Yes, at a city level we see theft, but it goes beyond a city,” explained Pierson. “At a county level, our tax dollars are spent to keep people locked up for theft the items that would be below $900.”
Mendoza said she understood where Pierson was coming from, but she works retail and they see theft everyday.
“I got held up at gunpoint over jeans, so I don’t care what color you are, I don’t care what your income is, you pull a gun out at someone I love and anyone here I am going to have a problem with it over jeans,” said Mendoza. “We can’t even get people to work retail because their lives are in danger. We have people who are hurt on the sales floor all the time.”
Mendoza said the data was the data was and that when it jumped $900 it increased theft.
“I understand people of color are in jail at a higher rate, I get it. But then how do we help the people in Brentwood that are opening shops, how do we help them. Right now I don’t see how the District Attorney can do anything under $900,” asked Mendoza.
Pierson said they needed to hold businesses accountable for actually signing their arrest warrants because we have a highly litigious society right now and a lot of them are afraid to sign because if they have someone who tries to arrest someone that they will be sued.
“Did Prop 47 resolve our issues, absolutely not,” stated Pierson.
“They exasperated them” stated Mendoza.
“Depends who you talk to, in your opinion, yes.” Stated Pierson. “In my opinion, it created other problems and it resolves some.”
Mendoza said she didn’t know what else to do for businesses in the city who are calling out for help.
“I haven’t had one person call me because they were put in jail from Brentwood erroneously but I have a lot of people who own shops that its their livelihood and this is impacting every single day,” said Mendoza.
Councilmember Tony Oerlemans said he didn’t have a problem with the letter being written in support of it but had an issue with spending staff time on drafting a letter. He suggested if the Chief of Police or League wrote the letter and sign off on it then he was for it.
“I just have a hard time spending staff time on what I perceive as a waste of time,” said Oerlemans. “We are changing the law back to what it was when I worked in Brentwood and it was never a problem whether we made the arrest, it was a problem as to whether the store, the business owner, the company would sign that arrest ticket so that we could bring the person to jail.”
He highlighted how the police department was putting themselves at risk by putting their hands on these people for items and then the store saying they don’t want them arrested and now the police department is open them up for lawsuits.
Meyer asked Chief Herbert on a hyper-local level what happened with the change to $950 what has Brentwood seen.
Herbert said the city has seen an increase in shoplifting from the stores.
“It was kind of a trifecta between Prop 47, Prop 57 and AB 109 and then covid hit so we couldn’t book anyone in jail so they walked out and 10-minutes later could steal again and could steal all day long because they were not getting a tickets because they were not going to jail,” said Herbert. “Those restrictions have lifted and now we can book them into county jail.”
“One of the main issues with the law, regardless of $400 or $900, is the fact if it is a misdemeanor, we need the business to sign the citizens arrest form,” said Herbet. “If they sign the citizens arrest form and it is the misdemeanor, we can take them to jail, they would be booked into county jail and possibly the only punishment they would get is being in jail for that day.”
Herbert explained for some citizens, that could be the breaking point for them to steal or not steal. Under a felony, they would not need the business while he called the organized retail theft a whole other issue.
Herbert said the police department did an organized retail theft operation on Dec. 29 where they made 10-arrests and on the Dec. 30 but these are cases of juveniles walking out of the stores or people who walk into stores and walk out and this is their job. He said they paired up with CHP on this.
UPDATE: the operation referenced by Chief Herbert for Dec 29/30: Overall, the operation resulted in 14 suspects being apprehended and $5,409 worth of stolen property being recovered.
“What this law has done is take people who didn’t steal prior to the change in the law because it could possibly get them incarcerated to allow them not to be incarcerated so now they can steal as long as they keep it under that amount of money,” said Herbert. “It’s prompted that small group to increase their thefts.”
Meyer asked why would a business not sign the form and assumed it would be for retaliation.
Herbert replied in some cases “yes” and in some cases its “corporate policy” because they feel the loss is a write off and that staff time they would pay to go to court is not worth paying so they just take the loss as a write off.
Pierson added the businesses have insurance and the fear of litigation.
“I appreciate the chief saying its was a trifecta because there are statistics to find out that since 2017 there was not a big difference in theft from Prop 47 until covid. Covid was part of this big change and suggest members of our public look the racial justice oversight board and we have several police chiefs on this board and suggest to look at the statistics to show this,” said Pierson who believed this was the type of things the league would do. “I would ask we don’t disregard what councilwoman Mendoza has asked to do, I would ask we put this off until e get more information back from the league.”
Meyer suggest if they were talking specifically about Brentwood, they follow up with the Police Officers Association and that would be a good start to have a good understanding of the impact on our police department.
“We need to keep our eyes on what’s happening hyper-local and not statewide or countywide because we do have a problem with our prison system and recidivism,” said Meyer who called that a different issue but the POA could be a good source.
She suggested if they wrote a letter of support, it would be in its current form but if it changes then that is the scary part.
Mendoza argued that is why cities send letters to each committee because its important to them. She encouraged the council to take action.
Ogden jumped in saying if the bill passed, it still would go before the California voters in a general election to make it effective. He said they would watch the Cal Chiefs and they could bring it back on another agenda if their policy doesn’t allow them to craft a letter and send it off.
Mendoza then made a motion to issue a letter of support of the legislation if the police department or League support the bill.
Pierson suggested the council table the item until the Brentwood Police Officers Association took a position on the bill. Mendoza then said they already have a motion on the table.
The council then voted 4-1 with Pierson dissenting.
Brentwood City Council Agenda: Click here
To Read AB 23 – click here
Brentwood Theft Incidents:
- Nov 2022: Brentwood Police Recover $3k in Stolen Merchandise
- Sept. 2022: Brentwood Police Announce Retail Theft Arrests with $8k recovered
- Aug 2022: Brentwood Police Nab Suspect in Burglary where Four Guns Were Stolen
- April 2022: Brentwood Police Arrest 3 in Connection to $1400 Theft at TJ Maxx
- Feb 2020: Brentwood Police Vehicle Struck During Pursuit After Theft at Streets of Brentwood – $10k in merchandise
[…] Police Chief Tim Herbert informed the city council last week when they discussed whether or not to support AB 23 conducted an organized retail theft operation […]
Whether or not the Brentwood City Council sends a “letter of support” makes little difference.
The larger irony on this subject is that California’s liberal left supermajority has virtually decriminalized shoplifting and petty theft over the past decade and (surprise surprise!) we have an resulting epidemic of those crimes. Those same liberals now want to be seen as “law and order” advocates. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.
[…] On January 10, the Brentwood City Council agreed to write a letter of support for Assembly Bill 23, a petty theft bill, once either the Brentwood Police Department or California League of Cities takes a position. Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) introduced AB 23 in an effort to amend Proposition 47 and reduce the threshold amount for petty theft and shoplifting from $950 to $400. — Full Story […]
[…] AB 23 was introduced by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) seeks to amend Proposition 47 and reduce the threshold amount for petty theft and shoplifting from $950 to $400. […]
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