The bill also allows those charged with petty theft with prior convictions to participate in a diversion program.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KABC) -- A proposed bill would hold repeat offenders of organized retail theft in California more accountable and create a diversion program to help stop the cycle.
Assembly Bill (AB) 1708 would allow either a felony or misdemeanor charge for any person who has two or more convictions for theft-related offenses and who is subsequently convicted of petty theft or shoplifting.
The bill also allows those charged with petty theft with prior convictions to participate in a diversion program for substance abuse and mental health treatment.
Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) held a press conference on Tuesday alongside the League of California Cities, the California Retailers Association, California Police Chiefs Association, and the California District Attorneys Association to push the bill.
"I am introducing Assembly Bill 1708, which is a common sense fix to Proposition 47, to combat rampant retail theft happening throughout the state and our communities," said Muratsuchi.
Prop 47, which was approved by voters in 2014, raised the dollar amount of property stolen to almost $1,000 in order to be charged with a felony. AB 1708 would stiffen the penalty for repeat offenders, no matter the dollar amount.
AB 1708 was presented in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.
A report by the National Retail Federation said retail theft accounts for nearly $30 billion in economic loss per year and that many of these incidents can be traced back to repeat offenders.
Muratsuchi's office said California is recognized as a "hot spot" for organized retail crime. The National Retail Federation notes that three of the top 10 cities for retail crime are in California with Los Angeles taking the top spot.
Earlier this month, three people were arrested in connection with a statewide organized retail theft operation that targeted Home Depot stores and resulted in a total loss of more than $75,000.
The theft operation, which involves suspects going into stores to steal power tools and other items, allegedly began in October 2021, according to the California Attorney General's Office.
Stores in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties were targeted. The suspects face multiple counts of felony charges, including organized retail theft, grand theft and receiving stolen property.
"Organized retail theft costs businesses, retailers, and consumers - and puts the public at risk," said Attorney General Rob Bonta. "Brazen criminal activity, such as the organized retail theft operation we have taken down today, will not be tolerated in California. I want to thank our law enforcement partners, including the California Highway Patrol, for their work in apprehending these suspects, and for our continued collaborative efforts to end organized retail theft. With these charges, we're moving forward to hold these defendants accountable."
In November 2021, as many as 10 thieves targeted a Home Depot in Lakewood. Four were charged shortly after, two of whom were teenagers.
According to investigators at the time, the thieves took a variety of tools, including sledgehammers and crowbars, and took off after getting into a getaway car that was parked outside.
In February, Bonta announced charges against organized retail theft suspects who allegedly stole $1 million worth of merchandise from Apple stores.