The California Highway Patrol's Organized Retail Crime Task Force made more than 1,000 arrests in the first 11 months of 2023, marking a 109% year-over-year increase, Gov. Gavin Newsom's office said Tuesday.
The announcement was made on the same day that the new bipartisan California Assembly Select Committee on Retail Theft met for the first time, offering an open forum to identify policy solutions to the ongoing retail theft crisis.
"Every single time there's a flash mob, rob, a flash mob property where our sense of security is eroded each of these heist take away from our peace of mind when we go shopping with their families, said Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Kern and Tulare). "We as a community deserve to feel safe and it's time that we sat with law enforcement and not criminals."
Also on Tuesday, Newsom's office said the CHP task force had recovered more than 187,000 stolen items from retailers.
"As reports of organized retail crime increase nationally, California is meeting the moment by leading more takedowns and making more arrests than ever before. I'm grateful for the CHP - along with our critical police, sheriff, and district attorney partners - for their continued efforts to leverage the state's tools and unprecedented resources to crack down on this unacceptable crime," the governor said in a statement.
The California Retailers Association "was proud to collaborate with the Newsom administration on the governor's real public safety plan which included securing the $267 million in local law enforcement grants, allocated specifically to combat retail theft," said Rachel Michelin, president of the association "We will continue to work with law enforcement on policies that can help streamline the reporting process that can result in better data."
At the center of the Select Committee on Retail Theft's hearing on Tuesday was California Proposition 47, which makes nonviolent property crimes valued at under $950 a misdemeanor. Assembly members debated whether that law is too lenient.
"Is the $950 felony threshold the problem or is there a lack of enforcement for misdemeanor theft, which already carries up to a year in jail?" Said Rick Chavez Zbur, D-Hollywood, the committee chair. "Well, every member of this committee will have their own questions. I know that each of my colleagues shares my desire to tackle this growing challenge."
The 11-member committee is comprised of Assembly members from across California. The Select Committee on Retail Theft will continue its work through the 2024 legislative session.