Cal Cities and other advocates urge ambitious action on retail theft

Jan 31, 2024

The next Assembly hearing on retail theft is Feb. 9 in West Hollywood

By Cal Cities Staff

Cal Cities and a broad coalition are urging policymakers to center any discussions on retail theft around three core pillars: prevention, enforcement, and supervision. The diverse group, made up of local governments, law enforcement, and businesses, sent a letter to the Legislature and Governor on Monday outlining each pillar.

The letter argues that addressing crime begins with prevention: Identifying and treating the causes of crime often produces the best outcomes. However, that’s not always enough — particularly for repeat offenders. In some cases, rehabilitation, education, and/or incarceration may be needed.

The coalition stressed the importance of passing policies that prevent mass incarceration and a revolving criminal justice system. The group is also calling for incentives to help people commit to treatment.

“By connecting people on supervision to services, while also instilling accountability through higher levels of supervision, we return appropriate consequences to the system without over-relying on incarceration,” they noted.

Retail theft shot to the forefront of public consciousness last year in response to several viral videos of smash-and-grab robberies. At least one statewide study suggests a marked increase in retail theft in urban counties and the Bay Area. Last week, the Public Policy Institute of California said that data could be an undercount. Businesses are loathe to report low-value theft and reporting standards differ among agencies. Retail theft can also fall under multiple reporting categories.

Policymakers have also put retail theft at the top of their agendas. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and a cadre of Republication and Democratic lawmakers have all put forth their own proposals. Some legislators have even floated the idea of reforming Proposition 47, which changed some nonviolent offenses to misdemeanors.

The Assembly is holding a series of informational hearings on retail theft. The next hearing is Feb. 9 in the West Hollywood City Council Chambers starting at 9 a.m.

For more information about retail theft bills, contact Jolena Voorhis, legislative affairs lobbyist.