Combating Retail Theft

A security guard, right, stands at the entrance to a Nordstrom department store at the Grove mall in Los Angeles, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, where a recent smash-and-grab robbery took place. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(The Center Square) – After a series of retail thefts at high-profile stores last year, several lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have introduced new legislation this week seeking reforms to a 2014 ballot initiative that increased the felony threshold for petty theft.

Assemblymember Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, introduced legislation this week that, if passed by legislators and a majority of voters, would lower the felony threshold for petty theft and shoplifting from $950 to $400. Under Proposition 47, which was passed by voters via a ballot initiative in 2014, certain thefts were reclassified to misdemeanors when the value of stolen goods was less than $950.

“Enough is enough, we need to fight back against the criminals who are stealing from our communities,” Salas said in a statement on Tuesday. “We have seen the unintended consequences of Prop 47’s weakening of our theft laws and I believe California voters are ready to make their voices heard on this issue again. AB 1603 provides that opportunity and will allow us to take a stand against the theft and criminal gangs who are plaguing our state.”

Hours after Salas introduced his bill, several Republican state lawmakers – including Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, and James Patterson, R-Fresno – unveiled a proposal to do away with Prop 47 altogether. The proposal, which was introduced Tuesday, is expected to be heard in committee Feb. 3.

“I’ve officially introduced legislation to repeal Prop. 47,” Kiley tweeted on Wednesday. “It’s a quaint notion but I think stealing things should be treated as criminal conduct.”

Kiley, among other GOP lawmakers, has repeatedly pointed to Proposition 47 as a key player in the recent rise in retail theft across the state. But some prominent Democrats, including Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta, say the law has nothing to do with the state’s rise in smash-and-grab robberies.

During a Dec. 17 press conference, Newsom vowed to hold those who commit thefts accountable for their crimes and promised budget investments to address retail theft.

“These organized retail gangs, these organized retail mobs that are not only increasing and heightening the anxiety that people are feeling but, more importantly, are expressing themselves in a way that has a profound impact on our feeling of safety here in this state, this region and, as I note, across this country,” Newsom said in December.

Newsom said he'll include $335 million in his budget proposal to address retail theft through investments in law enforcement, grant programs for small businesses impacted by theft and grants for district attorneys to prosecute retail theft.

Staff Reporter

Madison Hirneisen is a staff reporter covering California for The Center Square. Madison has experience covering both local and national news and is a graduate of Liberty University. She currently resides in Southern California.