California Lawmakers Introduce Latest Bill to Combat Retail Crime

After years of persistent smash-and-grab thefts plaguing retailers, some California lawmakers are aiming to further protect businesses in their state through new legislation.

California’s 66th District Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi introduced a new bill earlier this month that will amend the state’s current Proposition 47 law, which was approved by electors on Nov. 4, 2014.

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Currently, Proposition 47 requires shoplifting, defined as “entering a commercial establishment with the intent to commit larceny” if the value of the property taken is under $950, to be punished as a misdemeanor. Under existing law, entering a commercial establishment with the intent to take property over $950 is burglary, punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony.

In the new proposed bill, dubbed AB23, Muratsuchi seeks to reduce the threshold amount for petty theft and shoplifting from $950 to $400. The bill would have to be approved by voters.

This follows several recent large-scale retail thefts across the state. In May, more than $700,000 in stolen merchandise was recovered and a San Francisco Bay-area man was arrested in connection with a smash-and-grab retail theft ring, California Highway Patrol (CHP) said.

According to the CHP’s Golden Gate Division, authorities served search warrants at a home in Pittsburg, Calif. and at a nearby storage facility. During the search, investigators discovered stolen merchandise from multiple retailers, including Macy’s, Lululemon, Target, CVS, and more valuing “at least $715,000.” This arrest came just months after Calif. Governor Gavin Newsom introduced a new plan to fight and prevent crime in the state as it faces a spike in organized smash-and-grab thefts.

To combat the issue on a national scale, the U.S. House of Representatives last month passed the Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces (INFORM) Consumers Act, which works to help inform consumers about this illicit activity and helps law enforcement target criminals who sell high volumes of stolen merchandise on e-commerce marketplaces. The act is currently awaiting approval in the Senate.

The National Retail Federation’s 2022 National Retail Security Survey found that retail shrink, when taken as a percentage of total retail sales in 2021, accounted for $94.5 billion in losses last year.

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