By Zoey Hou
LOS ANGELES, CA – Gov. Gavin Newsom joined law enforcement leaders, legislators, and local officials at a press conference in Los Angeles County this week to address the state’s efforts to reduce crime and retail theft as it relates to broader crime issues.
Newsom signed California Assembly Bill 331 that would make organized retail theft punishable by misdemeanor or felony to any person who acts in cooperation with one or more persons with the intention to steal items for monetary gain.
Additionally, this bill would punish any person who “acted as an agent of another to steal merchandise from one or more merchant’s premises or online marketplaces as part of an organized plan to commit theft, or recruited, coordinated, organized, supervised, directed, managed, or financed another to undertake acts of theft.”
AB 311 would also require the Department of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to work with the Department of Justice to produce a regional property crimes task force to monitor and identify regions of California that experience high levels of crime.
Upon identification, these areas would be given additional law enforcement assistance as well as resources to combat property crime.
Furthermore, this bill would work to reimburse local departments and school districts for any “costs mandated by the state.” It is detailed that as of July 1, 2021 this bill will be in effect until Jan. 1, 2026.
Senator Patrick O’Donnell, representative of California’s 70th District, began the press conference by discussing the state’s primary goal to protect businesses across California from mass robbery and crime. He emphasized that, “Organized retail is real, it is dangerous, it is bold, and it is scary to see.”
Following, Commissioner of California Highway Patrol, Amanda Ray agreed with O’Donnell in her statement: “Organized retail crime theft has become a 30 billion dollar criminal industry that often uses the elicited proceeds to fund other crimes.”
Ray asserted that the CHP is committed to working with their partners in the Los Angeles agency to tackle this problem through hands-on regional task forces. She claimed that through a greater collaboration of law enforcement, resources, and partnerships across the state, they hope to put a dent in the issue of organized retail crime.
Since the task force’s deployment in Dec. 2019, the regional team has conducted “668 investigations, 252 arrests, and recovered over 16.3 million dollars worth of stolen merchandise.”
“What we’ve done since 2019 is leverage all resources and partners’ resources to identify areas and locations where we see things happening. Having this bill being signed and more resources allocated gives us the ability to collaborate more with law enforcement and retail owners.”
Commissioner Ray believed that though there is more work to be done to tackle this issue, the collaboration of the community and discussion by leaders of the state will work towards bettering the condition of crime in California.
Governor Gavin Newsom was brought to the microphone to speak on today’s matter and efforts to address crime.
He began by stating, “We’ve been organized in a deliberate manner to address the issue of organized retail crime for a number of years. That said, we are doubling down on these efforts today with this bill I will be signing in a moment.”
More broadly he spoke on gun safety, commenting that “in 1993 California had the 3rd highest gun death rate in America. In 2017 we are the 7th lowest– from the 3rd highest to 7th lowest. We know how to produce results.”
The Governor emphasized that California’s gun safety reform has drastically improved and there have been numerous efforts to reduce crime– particularly through state budgeting.
He added that this year 100 million dollars was invested into the CALVIP program which deals with unaligned issues associated with crime and violence in the state which was a drastic increase of budget since last year’s nine million dollar investment.
Moreover, the state has worked to fully implement a five million dollar commitment to have after school programs and summer school options for all Californian youths.
In his closing statement, Newsom concluded that we should look at this issue comprehensively and that there should be a focus on the educational spectrum in order to deal with the fundamental issue that leads citizens to a life of crime in the first place.