California Dems anger progressive left, push harsher penalties for shoplifters amid rising crime


California Democrats appear to be backtracking on some soft-on-crime policies, according to a number of new bills introduced in the state legislature seeking harsher penalties for retail theft.

Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, a Democrat from LA County and vice chair of the Legislative Progressive Caucus, introduced AB 1990, which would allow law enforcement to conduct arrests without a warrant for shoplifting. Officers would only need to have probable cause.

The bill, known as the Secured Transactions and Organized Theft Prevention (STOP) Act, would also make any theft of merchandise or property under $950 a misdemeanor, sparking the anger of progressive lawmakers who believe tough-on-crime policies will lead to overcrowded prisons as they did in the 1990s.

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Shoplifters will be prosecuted sign in a store

A sign in a store.

“Retail theft continues to impact small and large businesses alike, our California economy and the safety and well-being of our communities,” Carrillo said in a statement. “By enhancing coordination between law enforcement agencies, introducing tougher penalties for these crimes and increasing enforcement against suspected shoplifters, we are sending a clear message: We will not tolerate these acts that threaten our public safety and economic vitality.”

Carrillo’s fellow progressive caucus member, Tina McKinnor, disagreed on social media, saying AB 1990 would be “bad for black and brown folks.”

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“It authorizes an officer to make a warrantless arrest for shoplifting offenses not committed in the officer’s presence if the officer has probable cause to believe that person shoplifted,” McKinnor wrote on X last week.

STATE MAKES RETAIL THEFT A FELONY AS ORGANIZED CRIME PROLIFERATES

family fights back against robberfamily fights back against robber

A would-be robber used bear spray, but a family continued to fight him off until he fled empty-handed.

Some Republicans supported Carrillo’s bill and signed on as co-authors.

“Although there is a lot of work to be done, this is an important step to addressing this critical issue,” Republican lawmaker Juan Alanis said.

Assmeblymember Mike Gibson, also a Republican, backed Carrillo, saying shoplifting “is devastating small businesses in our state.”

Republicans are also leading a grassroots effort to repeal Proposition 47, a 2014 ballot measure that relaxed penalties for thefts below $950 in value and drug possession to reduce overcrowding in jails. Several Democrats, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, have signed the petition to roll it back.

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Other bills making their way through the California legislature include SB 923, authored by Democratic Sen. Bob Archuleta, which would sentence shoplifters who have several prior convictions to up to three years in prison. It’s part of the “Safer California Plan,” a new public safety initiative spearheaded by Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire, also a Democrat.

The bill comes as blue cities are also embracing tough-on-crime policies. Lawmakers in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York all have introduced legislation to tackle certain crimes like carjacking and theft plaguing the cities.

Last week, the Kansas legislature passed a bill that would classify organized retail crime a felony offense, joining nine other states that have passed similar laws in the last year.

According to a Public Policy Institute report in February, researchers tracked a rise in shoplifting, especially in the Bay Area, and a larger rise in commercial burglary among urban counties in California between 2020 and 2022. Shoplifting rose statewide 29% from 2021 to 2022.

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