My View: Yolo DA Pushes the Retail Theft Issue

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – The rise in murders in the US has been alarming over the course of the pandemic, but it is interesting that the issue that seems to have the most juice for pushing back against criminal justice reform has been retail theft.

In recent weeks, the Yolo DA, Jeff Reisig, has attempted to thread an interesting needle—pushing for reform while at the same time pushing back against reforms like Prop. 47 or early release.

His latest push: cracking down on retail theft.

Next week, the Yolo DA will be holding a town hall on smash and grab retail theft.

That’s been the wave of media and DA focus for the last few months.

The DA in his blurb asks: “Are smash and grab crimes happening in Yolo County?  Is retail theft becoming a big problem locally?  Join the next Yolo County Town Hall to talk to policy makers about stopping retail theft and the steps we can all take to help keep Yolo County safe!”

My favorite part though is the image…  you see this great imagery of two people in black attire smashing into a high-end jewelry store.  But then at the bottom of the image, you see the watermark—Metropolitan Police.  There are no metropolitan police in Yolo County—so the DA had to illustrate the problem of smash and grab in Yolo County by augmenting it with imagery from elsewhere.

Back in November, Yolo County put out a press release on the issue, noting, “While Yolo County has not yet experienced similar crimes, law enforcement remains prepared to respond in the event our community experiences such crime…”

A few days later, of course Yolo County was hit by such incidents.

But, as we pointed out, some of it was a little thin.

On December 9, in Yolo County two teens hit three stores in Woodland and Davis.  This has been portrayed as yet another organized theft—but let’s look at it a bit more closely.

The two are charged with four felonies, one for “organized retail theft”—two or more occasions with value exceeding $950.

Under that law, Adams and Thompson acted “in concert with one or more persons to steal merchandise from one or more merchant’s premises… within a 12 month period…”

In short, two people committed thefts in more than one place together and the merchandise was valued at more than $950.

But it gets thinner—they are also charged with three felony conspiracies to commit a misdemeanor.

Count 4 for example says that they “did commit a FELONY” with “Conspiracy to a commit a misdemeanor.”

Conspiracy of course is a scary word, as organized retail theft has become.  But here, the conspiracy was: (1) drove to the CVS in Davis together, (2) entered the store each carrying an empty bag; (3) filled the bag with approximately $366 of merchandise and left the store without paying.

As we pointed out at the time, this was not much of a conspiracy or an organized effort.

But as we have seen a number of high-profile incidents since Thanksgiving, we are starting to see a push to reverse Prop. 47.

In 2020, efforts to overturn Prop. 47 were soundly defeated by the voters who overwhelmingly rejected Prop. 20

But times have changed, and Democratic Assemblymember Rudy Salas of Bakersfield has now introduced AB 1603, “which will give California voters another opportunity to take a stand against the increase in theft afflicting the state. In 2014, voters passed Proposition 47 (Prop 47), which lowered the crimes of certain thefts and receiving stolen property to misdemeanors when the value of the stolen goods was less than $950.”

According to Salas, “Since its passage, California has experienced a brazen increase in widespread theft, including “smash-and-grab” robberies, which have terrorized cities throughout the state.

“Enough is enough, we need to fight back against the criminals who are stealing from our communities,” said Assemblymember Salas. “We have seen the unintended consequences of Prop 47’s weakening of our theft laws and I believe California voters are ready to make their voices heard on this issue again. AB 1603 provides that opportunity and will allow us to take a stand against the theft and criminal gangs who are plaguing our state.”

Opponents of Prop. 47 point out that it “more than doubled the amount a suspect can steal before facing a felony from $450 to $950.”

But the data is not necessarily on their side.

An editorial last week by the LA Times pointed out that blaming crime on Prop. 47 is not supported by the facts.

For one thing they note that California’s felony line is not absurdly high, having raised it from $450 (which was among the lowest in the country) to $950.

“Some of the most conservative, tough-on-crime states had higher dividing lines than California even before Proposition 47 passed. Texas was at $1,500. It has since raised the line to $2,500, matching South Carolina. Most states are now at $1,000 or more, so even at $950, California’s threshold is now among the toughest third of states,” they write.

Moreover, it is not even clear from the data that there really has been an increase in retail crime.

More clear, perhaps, is murders which had gone down for two decades have risen sharply in the last few years.  But even there, it is hard to pin the increase to specific policies.

The Washington Examiner, a conservative publication, on January 1, argued, “Liberal prosecutors across the country have overseen significant crime waves in America’s major cities this year — and have largely stood by their aggressive reforms.”  They added that “few have acknowledged the seeming link between their departure from the prosecutorial status quo and the rise in violence.”

Their examples: Larry Krasner, Chesa Boudin, Marilyn Mosby, Kim Foxx and George Gascón.

But if you look at the list of cities with high murder rates and large increases in murder rates, there are a lot of cities that have traditional DAs.  When you look at huge increases in murder rates, sure you have places like Chicago and Baltimore on the list in the top 10, but you also have Memphis, Indianapolis, Louisville, Columbus, Oklahoma City and Cincinnati—cities in red states, without progressive prosecutors.

Moreover, a number of cities saw large drops in homicides in in 2021.

Mike McLively of the Giffords Law Center noted in a tweet: Boston (-26%), Dallas (-11%), Greensboro (-13%); Jacksonville (-25%), Kansas City (-12%), Miami (-15%), Seattle (-22%), and St. Louis (-25%).

Several of those cities have progressive prosecutors as well.

Time reports: “St. Louis, which in 2020 had its highest murder rate in 50 years, has recorded 190 homicides as of Dec. 29, which is 73 less than the 263 the year prior. And it’s not just that the numbers are lower compared to the tumultuous period of 2020, they’re lower than some pre-pandemic years as well. In 2019 the city saw 194 homicides and 205 in 2017.”

Data analysis thus calls into question the tie between policies and murder rates just as it calls into question whether the retail theft threat is real or just a few high-profile incidents that have been easy to blow up.

But that’s not stopping elected officials facing reelection this year from exploiting them as much as they can.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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12 thoughts on “My View: Yolo DA Pushes the Retail Theft Issue”

  1. Keith Olson

    Back in November, Yolo County put out a press release on the issue, noting, “While Yolo County has not yet experienced similar crimes, law enforcement remains prepared to respond in the event our community experiences such crime…”
    A few days later, of course Yolo County was hit by such incidents.

    Reisig showed great timing on that press release.  As for the Vanguard’s timing of it’s response to that press release, this image comes to mind:

    http://www.renegadetribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/egg-on-face-egg.jpg

     

     

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Has anything occurred in Yolo since early December? Right now it appears there were a few incidents that were overblown and he’s trying to reap benefit from those few incidents.

  2. Keith Olson

    The Washington Examiner, a conservative publication

    Yes, the Washington Examiner is a conservative publication.  I wonder why whenever the Vanguard cites the Washington Post or the NY Times it doesn’t supply the description of ‘a liberal publication’ or a ‘left leaning publication’?

  3. Chris Griffith

    Oh talking about retail theft huh…

    If you’re going to write a story like this go do some footwork go talk to home Depot both of them the one in West Sacramento and in Woodland

    Go talk to Walmart we have in Woodland all three of them for that matter go find Target talk to them discuss shoplifting to them find out the real story.

    I bet if you added up all the money lost by all the above stores I think you would discover well over a million dollars in and stolen merchandise out of those stores and if you want you let me know and I’ll set you up with a meeting at one of the home Depots the store managers can discuss this with you maybe they’ll whip out some film and show you some footage of some snatch grabs that have occurred in the past couple of weeks then you can write a real story about shoplifting.

     

    There’s one person’s humble opinion take it for what it is.

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      You have only part of the truth… much of the “shoplifting” is actually ‘internal’… some managers don’t want to admit that, so they’ll use either ‘external shoplifting’ or “shrinkage” to explain it… this is nothing new…

      Johnny Cash – One Piece at a Time (Official Audio) – Bing video

      With insurance claim opportunities (they can claim retail price, not what they paid), denial of internal problems, many retailers (who may be doing it themselves), will (have) inflate losses, or blame external shoplifting (which is real, and with ‘smash and grab’ IS expensive), to cover “shrinkage”…

      Ask any retailer who has been given ‘truth serum’… the problem is real… it inflates the costs of goods, property insurance rates, loss of profits… not only the ‘smash and grabs’, but the ‘internal’… the latter seldom gets investigated, and even more rarely gets prosecuted… those guilty have their employment terminated, with the strong suggestion “don’t put us down as a ‘reference'”, but are not put subject to the criminal system, except in egregious circumstances… bad for the “rep” of a business, and could negate the false/altered insurance claims.

      That’s reality…

  4. Chris Griffith

    And one more thing don’t just discuss retail theft if you happen to really discuss this with the above stores ask them how many vehicle thefts that have occurred in their parking lots in broad daylight ask him how many catalytic converters have been stolen on vehicles in there parking lots I think the answer will surprise the hell out of you.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Theft of catalytic converters, except from a store (or chop shop) is not retail theft.  Which is the topic…

      Why not include home invasions, burglary to your list of “retail thefts”?  Which is the topic.

      Not clear what burr is under your saddle blanket…

  5. Chris Griffith

    No kind sir I don’t have a burr under my saddle. 🤗

    This story was written with  no investigative reporting. If The  reporter feels that they won’t be getting accurate information from the people who run these big box stores at least talk to some of the employees the employees  know what’s going on they see people running running out the door and they can’t even put a bullet in their kneecap the slow them down.

     

    I think the Davis vanguard would make a very good blog if they would just do some accurate reporting not just  do a hit piece on somebody because you don’t   like persons party affiliation. The davis vanguard would increase the readership exponentially if they would just do some creative honest reporting and stopped doing hit pieces.

    Just one person’s humble opinion take it for what it’s worth.

     

  6. Keith Olson

    In short, two people committed thefts in more than one place together and the merchandise was valued at more than $950.

    In short here’s a video showing there were four people involved at the Davis CVS smash and grab robbery.

    https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/video/6166613-new-video-of-davis-cvs-smash-and-grab/

    As we pointed out at the time, this was not much of a conspiracy or an organized effort

    So would four robbers be considered an organized effort?  If not, what’s the acceptable number of thieves before it’s considered “organized”?

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      4 to 10+ works for me…

      Crossing threads… was the Jan 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol a crime?  Was it ‘organized crime’?

      Please try to be consistent in your arguments/posits.

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