Home » Bill Seeks Stronger Penalties for Retail Theft Crimes

Bill Seeks Stronger Penalties for Retail Theft Crimes

by CC News
Retail Theft

On Jan 22, Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-San Bernardino) held a press conference announcing AB 1772, which would seek jail time for repeat retail theft suspects.

The press conference featured Assembly Democrats and Assembly Republicans with law enforcement highlighting the need to fix issues with Proposition 47.  The bill is in response to the massive amount of retail thefts going on throughout the State of California and aims to begin holding people accountable while bringing the pendulum back to the middle in terms of accountability.

If approved, store thefts would no longer be processed as a misdemeanor with no jail time if a suspect has been convicted of two or more specified theft-related offenses, and punishment could range from imprisonment in the county jail ranging from six months to as long as three years.

Ramos said, “Shoplifting, smash-and-grab thefts, and other acts of retail theft trends are causing retailers to close their businesses and endangering customers and employees. Since the pandemic, these crimes have increased. That is not the direction California needs to go.“ He added, “The Public Policy Institute reported that the 2022 rates for commercial burglary rates had increased by almost 16 percent compared to 2019. The PPIC also reported that shoplifting in 2022 had increased by nearly 29% from the pandemic years.”

Assemblymember Avelino Valencia (D-Anaheim), a joint-author,  said the bill will make communities not only safer, but support California businesses by holding theft offenders accountable.

“We have all witnesses the disturbing increase in crimes since the pandemic. Robberies, burglaries and petty retail theft have become so common in our communities,” stated Valencia noting in Orange County that commercial burglaries have increased by 54% and home burglaries are also on the rise. “These incidents are taking place all across the state. These incidents leave emotional trauma causing individuals to be vulnerable.”

He also referenced the Public Policy institute of California who said in 2022, California experienced a 28.2% increase in reported commercial shoplifting. While noting crimes have become brazen and in daylight without fear or repercussions.

Valencia shared that businesses are suffering by not only losing profit, but spend more money on security measures and staying in business by raising prices due to loss of theft or risk going out of business.

“This is unacceptable and it’s time we hold these bad actors accountable,” stated Valencia. “AB 1772 increases the ability of law enforcement and District Attorney’s to prosecute repeat offenders and reverse the spikes we have seen in retail theft crimes. Repeat offenders will no longer receive a get out of jail card, even if the stolen goods are under $950. AB 1772 requires jail time if the perpetrator is convicted of a third offense.”

Ramos shared the bill increases the ability for law enforcement and district attorneys to prosecute repeat offenders and reverse the spikes in theft crimes—this could result in jail time of 1-year to 3-years.

“This bill does not change the shoplifting limit of $950, but it does ensure prior convictions, regardless of the dollar value, are considered on the third arrest and conviction. This issue of bringing attention around Prop 47 and the safety around community, started off last year where an audit is currently being conducted on Prop 47 for counties of Riverside and San Bernardino County,” stated Ramos noting this is a bipartisan bill.

Assemblymember Devon Mathis (R-Porterville) said retail theft was a plague of our society and everyone sees it each night on the nightly news and see it when we all go to the store.“We are at a point where its not safe to go hang out at malls, to go shopping during the holiday season or to simply pick up a new pair of shoes for back to school. Its time we come together bipartisan and say you know what sometimes these ballot initiatives like Prop 47, Prop 57, these things are not always right and we need to go back and make adjustments,” explained Mathis. “That is what we are doing here… people are coming together saying we have had enough of this and we are going to start making sure if people are doing this, they are going to be held accountable.”

San Bernardino Sheriff Shannon Dicus shared how Prop 47 was packaged as a safe neighborhood and schools act in 2014 and since then the bill has plagued California and businesses by taking the punishment teeth from theft crimes.

“AB 1772 would make it more effective for law enforcement and prosecutors to pursue stern penalties against serial retail theft suspects,” stated Dicus. “There are essentially no consequences for these smash-and-grab robberies and AB 1772 would remove the misdemeanor classification and introduce the possibility of 3-years in jail for suspects with 2 or more of the specified theft related convictions.”

Dicus added most people cannot walk down any street in California and not realize things were getting worse as a result of Prop 47 noting in San Bernardino County, they have had 500 reports of retail theft since August of 2023. He also noted increase in violence across the state.

Dicus also took a swipe at the California Assembly Public Safety Committee who has failed to pass similar bills while failing to protect victims and California and law enforcement are tired of the pro-criminal stance from a committee that is supposed to protect us.

San Bernardino Police Chief Darren Goodman said he was in full support of AB 1772.

“This is a common sense, non-partisan bill, that would implement a measure of consequence for repeat shoplifters. Prop 47 essentially decriminalized retail theft. We regularly see brazen smash and grab thefts by bold criminals who have no fear of consequence for their actions. This new normal has devastated merchants across the State and San Bernardino is no exception,” said Goodman

Goodman also shared San Bernardino had 429 shoplifting reports in 2020. By 2023, they saw 1,028—an increase of 140%. But noted those are not the true numbers due to underreporting of crime as many feel hopeless and conditioned not to report the thefts as they feel there are no consequences why other cant continue to endure the losses and close up shop.

“When businesses close, businesses suffer loss of jobs, services and revenue,” said Goodman. “Communities of color are especially harmed when left with retail desserts, additional blight and increased crime. This is why its ironic that the Public Safety Committee, who often touts their concern for communities of color, but never hears are pleas to pass common sense bills. We hope and implore them to support this common sense bill.”

Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper called this bill a big step in the right direction.

“The public is ready for a change when it comes to retail theft,” said Cooper noting Sacramento County has over 33,000 outstanding misdemeanor warrants. “Nearly half of everyone we contact in retail theft crimes has prior drug history and being able to charge repeat offenders with a felony is a big plus for law enforcement as current law prevents law enforcement from combining dollar amounts and this law would fix that problem.”

He also said retailers have a hand in this problem from a “hands off policy” to under-reporting and don’t share data. He said ultimately this will all have to go back to the voters and they have to change it.

“The new normal of walking into a store and having plexiglass and pushing a button is not okay,” said Cooper. “But we are all accustomed to that. Its not right, and its time to change it. This bill is a step in the right direction. The public is fed up. Its time to come together on this bipartisan issue.”

Assemblymember Blanco Pacheco (D-Downey), also a co-author of the bill, stated they could no longer stand by and watch businesses leave, loss of jobs, tax revenue go away, or price increases due to theft.

“We are already in a state trending towards unaffordable and this is unacceptable,” stated Pacheco. “I know this is a multi-layered issue and one bill is not going to solve it all, but this is a start. A start that gives voters a choice by addressing retail theft so law enforcement can protect businesses and consumers, reduce crime rates and improve public safety.”

Assemblymember Juan Alanis (R-Modesto) said he liked they were moving forward to address Prop 47 and help the retailers. He shared how he took an oath 20-years ago and takes that to the Assembly to ensure public safety is priority number 1.

Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) said he doesn’t recognize the California he was born into, and it has changed so dramatically over time.

“We used to be a place people wanted to move to and retire to, people are now leaving, businesses are now leaving. Unfortunately, phony propositions that promise safety, actually increased lawlessness. That is Proposition 47. It is self-evident to the people of California that when you make a felony theft and make it a misdemeanor, a ticket, instead of jail time, the criminals are going to figure out there is a game they can play and win,” said Patterson. “I am so tired of this legislator, deciding that the fate of repeat criminals is more important than the fate of repeat victims. But I do believe the tide is rising because it is self-evident that we are in a place none of us want to remain in. I think there is a growing discontent and undercurrent in this state that says what is happening in the place we call him. This is a first start. Obviously a solution that makes perfect sense. You do it once,  you do it twice, you do it a third time we are going to catch you and put you in jail for a while.”

He said California has got to start sending signals to those criminals who think they can continue to get away with it—that we are going to fix it and on the third time we are doing something about it.

“The time for change is now and we have got to fix the mistakes of previous propositions that have gotten us into this mess. I am hopeful this passes and the Governor will sign it,” stated Patterson.

He added the fact there is Democrats and Republicans supporting this, it’s a signal that they are all fed up with it.

In February 2023, the legislator requested the state auditor to review the effectiveness of Proposition 47 to determine whether it had escalated crime rates in San Bernardino and Riverside counties and if so, what categories had been affected. The auditor’s report is expected later this year.

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MODERATE January 24, 2024 - 9:01 am

California’s state Democratic politicians did more than anyone to create the present problem by undercriminalizing theft – now they want to claim credit for reversing their poorly chosen course. Well, the horse has long since left the barn.

More Passes Is Not The Answer January 24, 2024 - 9:18 am

Giving folks 2 or 3 passes before they receive jail time is not a fix for the rampant theft we see happening in our state. What is wrong with punishing people for breaking the law? Why the unreasonable attempt to allow them to remain free to continue to violate the public?

Jon January 24, 2024 - 7:20 pm

It’s almost like they recognize there’s a problem…..that they…..created. I’d love to be a politician but I can’t figure out how to fit my whole head in my ass.

Street Sweeper January 24, 2024 - 7:38 pm

Wait, I thought we where limiting bills?

Lance T January 24, 2024 - 9:55 pm

Don’t forget one simple fact that is bigger than the Grand Canyon: If the district attorney doesn’t file on a case, there is no prior. So we are still going to see people pushed into diversion for stealing, and that way the case literally disappears.

Common Sense January 25, 2024 - 11:11 am

I LOVE how short sighted an uninformed these opinions are. It’s absolutely AWESOME to see how shallow, uneducated, and over opinionated people are. Go ahead, keep crowing about locking people up. And then enjoy the MASSIVE costs of housing these inmates. Each inmate costs taxpayers 132K a year. It makes COMPLETE sense to spend over a million dollars a year to incarcerate ten people who were stealing less than 100K in products. FUCKING MORONS who can’t figure out complex problems should sit down and stfu. https://calmatters.org/justice/2024/01/california-prison-cost-per-inmate/

WPR January 25, 2024 - 4:40 pm

IF CA educational system would graduate persons actually educated and able to offer an employer a viable skill set there would be fewer resorting to crime to survive. Governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown realized many decades ago an educated citizen is one able to become a productive member of society rather than a perpetual drain upon society.
Historically state prisons were where CA’s educational failures were housed after they learned the skill set of the streets where there are two types prey and predators. CA’s educational system teaches to pass government tests so money can be allocated to schools. CA is so embarrassed by number of high school dropouts each year they use percent change from previous year rather than actual numbers.
Students in other countries are taught advanced math while CA students are indoctrinated in proper gendering so as not to trigger they or them. Want to reduce number of persons incarcerated? Stop electing liberals.

Common Sense January 27, 2024 - 8:33 am

First, anyone who thinks education NEEDS to make you employable fundamentally doesn’t understand the point of an education. Something very lost over the generations of idiots seeking wealth instead of understanding. Secondly, you destroy your own point when you acknowledge the stupidity of your first statement by including this one. “Governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown realized many decades ago an educated citizen is one able to become a productive member of society” You don’t NEED a specific kind of job to be productive. You DO however need an education in history, civic responsibility, and your role as a citizen. You also failed to acknowledge the primary failure of our society which since you actually know who Pat Brown was are old enough to know, yet old enough to BE THE PROBLEM. A grossly Capitalist society that is entirely tilted to favor the wealthy will NEVER sustain. The baby boomer generation is a bunch of traitorous fucks who destroyed America’s economic landscape in the name of wealth and prosperity. YOU OLDER MORONS voted in the assholes that over 3 decades made this country an oligarchy that is entirely run at the wims of dark money political interests. The failures in education only serve to ensure the poor aren’t educated enough to change the system rigged against them. Truthfully, when everyone over 50 is dead the world will be a much better place because we can finally dispense with grandma and grandpa;s entirely ignorant ideas of what a country should be.

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