Debate Over Retail Theft Informs the Future of Criminal Justice Reform – Legislative Dems Are Divided Over It

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Sacramento, CA – In February, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo introduced AB 1990, which, in attempting to deal with an increase in retail theft, “would authorize a peace officer to make a warrantless arrest for a misdemeanor shoplifting offense not committed in the officer’s presence if the officer has probable cause to believe that person has committed shoplifting.”

“Retail theft continues to impact small and large businesses alike, our California economy, and the safety and wellbeing of our communities. Today, we stand at a pivotal moment to address a challenge that has been allowed for far too long,” said Assemblymember Carrillo.

She added, “Businesses and communities have been under siege by organized retail theft rings that have created lawlessness by some and fear by employers and workers alike who don’t know if they will be safe in their workplaces. With the introduction of AB 1990, we are taking a necessary step to strengthen our response to this crisis. Organized retail theft demands an organized response on prevention and safety.”

“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,” continued Carrillo.

She added, “AB 1990 provides peace officers with the ability to respond more effectively to misdemeanor shoplifting offenses, even if the offense was not committed in their presence, as long as they have probable cause. It’s time we take back control and ensure that our streets and stores are safe for everyone. My office looks forward to working with stakeholders and community groups amid the legislative process.”

But not everyone agrees.

Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, on X posted a video exchange between Assemblymember Kevin McCarty and Rachel Michelin, the President and CEO of the California Retailers Association.

McCarty noted, “Some retailers aren’t allowing arrests to happen in the stores because of perception. They don’t want to have a bad video that goes on TikTok and so forth.”

Michelin defended the policy, stating “our number one priority is the safety of our customers and our employees in the store.”

She argued it could be “very traumatic” if you have “law enforcement brazenly coming into a store and starting to arrest people.”

She said, “I think there has to be a balance to that. We’re open to having conversations with that. But I do think the same token, I have a store here in Sacramento that is being told if they continue to call law enforcement, engage law enforcement, they’re going to be cited as a public nuisance.”

In her tweet, Assemblymember McKinnor posted, “We don’t need to end Prop. 47. We don’t need #ab1990, which will only promote mass incarceration. We need our law enforcement partners to enforce the law, not discourage retailers from asking for help.”

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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