California Assembly Introduces New Legislation Over Retail Theft Concerns

The California Assembly has introduced a comprehensive package of seven bills aimed at addressing the rising concerns over retail theft across the state.

One of the key initiatives is Assembly Bill 2943, which targets serial retail thieves. Jointly authored by Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D) and Speaker Robert Rivas (D), the bill introduces a new crime with penalties of up to three years behind bars for possession of stolen property with intent to resell. It also allows for the aggregation of similar thefts from different victims to charge grand theft, under specific criteria.

In an interview with L.A. Magazine, Assemblymember Zbur discussed his motivation behind leading the charge on this issue. “One of the things I was hearing about more and more frequently from constituents in my district was concern, frustration, and even in some cases fear related to what they were seeing happening to the retailers in our community,” he said.

“People are seeing more and more goods being locked up in cabinets. They are seeing people just walk out with goods. It’s not only a shopper inconvenience, it makes people feel unsafe.”

AB 2943 provides law enforcement with new tools to arrest shoplifters based on sworn statements or video footage. It also extends the ability to keep repeat offenders in custody.

As Assemblymember Zbur explained, “One of the large retailers told me based on video footage they have, they identified that there were a couple 100 people responsible for 80% of the thefts in all of the stores in L.A. County. We know from what the larger retailers are reporting that there are these organized crime rings that are hitting stores over and over and over again.”

Recognizing the importance of addressing underlying factors contributing to theft, AB 2943 also promotes the use of diversion and rehabilitative programs, such as drug courts. These programs aim to address root causes and help individuals get the help they need.

In addition to AB 2943, several other bills have been introduced to complement and strengthen efforts to combat retail theft. These include Assembly Bill 1794, 1779, 1960, 1972, 1802, and 3209, all aimed at improving the prosecution and prevention of retail theft.

The legislators authoring these bills are actively working with stakeholders to refine and strengthen the proposed legislation. They are anticipating provisions to protect businesses from retaliation, prevent the unlawful sale of stolen goods online, and enhance data transparency.

When asked about some of the pressure to overturn Proposition 47, the ballot measure approved by voters in 2014 reducing retail theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, Zbur stated, “I don’t think we need to touch Proposition 47.”

He explained, “What dissuades people from committing crimes is the likelihood that you’re going to get caught, and then the certainty that there will be a consequence when you get caught.” Zbur cited the success of traffic laws, where people generally comply due to the likelihood of getting caught and facing consequences.

Zbur emphasized the unusual level of cooperation among government leaders and stakeholders in addressing this issue. “I do believe that all seven bills will be signed into law. It’s unusual to actually have the speaker of one of the major houses do something that is so strategic… to deal with a problem our community is facing.”

He added, “The Governor, the Speaker, and the Pro Tempore of the Senate have all underscored that this is a priority for all three leaders of those branches.” This bipartisan support and sense of urgency bode well for the successful passage of the comprehensive package of bills targeting retail theft.


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