New numbers from the California Highway Patrol suggest a statewide crackdown on retail theft is getting results.
Organized retail theft has been on the rise across the country for several years now. California built a task force specifically to fight it.
According to CHP data for last year, 320,000 pieces of merchandise were recovered in nearly 550 investigations, 1,301 arrests were made, and more than $10 million in stolen goods were returned.
“It’s absolutely progress,” CHP Officer Andrew Barclay said. “When we look at the purpose behind the organized regional crime task force, not only find the individuals committing the crimes, but also anybody involved in these and that includes the people far up the chain.”
The task force is coordinated by the CHP but includes various departments around the state with a focus on busting organized crews targeting everything from big box retailers to small businesses.
“This is product that we’re able to return to the retailers that they’re able to then recover,” Barclay said. “Even though it was stolen, they’re able to bring it back in and still sell.”
California Grocers Association spokesman Nate Rose said they’re in favor of anything that leads to more arrests and fewer thefts.
“For the grocery industry, this is our number one issue,” Rose said. “This is what’s keeping everybody up at night. At the end of the day, everybody seems to have this consensus around the idea that more needs to be done.”
One idea being discussed is changing Prop 47, whether it’s in the legislature or on the ballot. A change would allow for longer prison sentences for non-violent crimes.
Another idea is stacking multiple misdemeanor shoplifting charges into a single felony.
“We hear from grocers all the time that, let’s say they’re operating 10 stores. They see someone go one-by-one through their stores and stealing under the $950 threshold so it’s a lesser crime, in theory, if they were apprehended,” Rose said.
Last fall, the state also announced $270 million in grants for local law enforcement and district attorney’s offices to help fight organized retail theft, including millions for San Jose and San Francisco.
Source: NBC Bay Area