California Considers Shoplifting Overhaul Bill

The California state legislature is considering a bill that would reduce potential confrontations against shoplifters, which critics fear will spur another wave of theft in the state.

SB 553 would prevent businesses from requiring their employees to confront shoplifters. It has already passed the state Senate by a margin of 29-8 and is now being considered by the Assembly.

The Golden State has been especially hard-hit by an increase in shoplifting and other crime in recent years. In particular, the state’s crime rate increased significantly following the death of George Floyd in 2020.

The state has also changed its laws in a manner that many conservatives argue caused much of the crime spike. Voters approved Proposition 47 in 2014, which reduced the penalties for theft of items under $950 in value. Charges that used to be felonies are now considered misdemeanors. 

Furthermore, critics point to a lack of enforcement regarding a number of crimes in the state. The official shoplifting statistics fell prior to a significant increase since 2020. The initial decline was, in part, caused by thefts going uninvestigated.

Fox News reported that the increase in shoplifting allows for fences to sell the stolen goods, sometimes in the open.

The increase in theft has led to a number of businesses moving out of the state, especially the city of San Francisco. The Pacific Coast city has lost approximately half of its downtown retail locations since the start of the pandemic and the 2020 riots.

A number of major retailers pulled up stakes in the city, including Gap, DSW and Ray-Ban. Whole Foods, which had been a staple in the city, announced its closure in April.

A San Francisco Target put its inventory in lockdown following an increase in thefts.

Three of the top ten metro areas affected by organized retail theft are in the Golden State. The Bay Area of San Francisco and Oakland ranks number two behind Los Angeles.

San Francisco recently announced a large increase in police officer pay after it was revealed that the city was short about a quarter of its needed workforce.