Yolo DA Launches ‘FastPass’ to Prosecution Program Combating Retail Theft – Although Industry Retracts Claims, and Defense Attorney Calls It Publicity Stunt

By Robert J. Hansen

WOODLAND, CA — Last December. the National Retail Federation (NRF) lobbying group retracted a claim that “organized retail crime” accounted for “nearly half” of the shopping industry’s $94.5 billion losses due to “shrink” in 2021, according to the Guardian.

“But larger retailers are now conceding that they may have exaggerated the issue of ‘shrinkage,’ the Guardian wrote, noting, “During a January earnings call, Walgreens’ then chief financial officer, James Kehoe, said the company had seen ‘lower levels of shrink’ in the second half of 2022. The loss of inventory attributed to theft, fraud and damage was over three percent. Kehoe said the shrink rate is down to roughly 2.5 percent this year.”

Despite the exaggerated claims unearthed by the Guardian, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig last week, in collaboration with Yolo County law enforcement leaders, announced the launch of what the DA claims is an innovative new Direct-to-DA retailer reporting program designed to dramatically expedite the investigation and prosecution of retail crimes.

The “FastPass to Prosecution” program was launched in the Fall of 2023 in partnership with several major retailers, including Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Raley’s, The Home Depot and several other retailers operating in Yolo County.

“Theft and other crimes against retailers have been worsening in California for some time. Not only has the level of theft increased dramatically, but thieves have become increasingly brazen and sometimes violent. The status quo approach to these crimes is not working,” Reisig said in a statement.

However, Sacramento defense attorney Mark Reichel thinks that programs like FastPass are just tough on people, not on crime.

“The cause of these crimes is not the failure to prosecute them,” Reichel told The Vanguard.

Reichel said everything would be a lot better and there would be less crime if society addressed and solved the problem of poverty.

“It’s not going to stop crime,” Reichel said of Reisig’s program, adding, “It’s just an easy way to get publicity.”

FastPass, the Yolo DA said, was designed to provide retailers another option to report non-emergency crimes that have been investigated and documented internally, directly to the DA, who possesses the exclusive authority to file formal criminal complaints.

FastPass is not designed to deter retailers from calling 911 and nothing prevents law enforcement from responding, but because of factors outside the control of police and sheriffs, including high priority call volume and limited staffing, some police responses can be delayed or impractical, according to the District Attorney’s office.

“By utilizing the FastPass we are able to dramatically expedite the investigation and filing of criminal cases and reduce the delay between the time of the crime, the arrest and prosecution. In some cases, it will cut the delay down from months to weeks or even days,” Reisig said.

Since the launch of FastPass last fall, the DA’s office claims it has filed criminal cases against 49 suspects, including dozens of felony cases with total losses exceeding $100,000.

These 49 individuals combined have over 134 previous theft convictions and 93 percent of all the offenders have previous arrests including theft, burglary, robbery, violent assaults, and family violence, said Reisig.

CEO of the California District Attorneys Association, Greg Totten, called the innovative approach “groundbreaking” and committed to promoting it as a promising best practice to other elected prosecutors across California.

Yolo County District Attorney’s Office is also one of three prosecutor’s offices in the nation, along with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and the King County Prosecutor’s Office (WA), to be selected as a pilot site by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) for their Vibrant Communities Initiative (VCI).

VCI, launched in 2023, is focused on improving collaboration among retailers, prosecutors, police, social service organizations, local policy makers and civic and business groups, and others—to tackle systemic drivers of retail crimes, enhance information sharing, prosecute habitual and violent offenders, and propose meaningful second chance opportunities to reduce recidivism.

Lisa LaBruno, Sr. Executive Vice President of Retail Operations, Retail Industry Leaders Association, maintains—despite backtracking by the industry—the FastPass to Prosecution project is a perfect example of how retailers and law enforcement can collaborate to make communities safer.

“Every jurisdiction in the country is struggling with limited resources and limited personnel to address the problem of organized retail crime and habitual theft. FastPass can serve as model for prosecutors across the country for how to focus the limited resources of government in partnership with retail asset protection teams to target high-profile, prolific, and violent criminal actors in the community,” LaBruno said.

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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