Monday, September 4, 2023

California Democrat Regrets Backing Liberal Crime Bill Amid Retail Theft 'Epidemic'

California Democrat Regrets Backing Liberal Crime Bill Amid Retail Theft 'Epidemic'

A police car sits parked in front of the Westfield San Francisco Centre, in San Francisco, Calif. on June 14, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) 

Citing an "epidemic" of retail theft, a county supervisor in California's Bay Area said he made a "big mistake" in backing the liberal crime bill Prop. 47 a decade ago, that drastically reduced penalties for stealing goods valued at less than $950.

San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa recently took to X, formerly Twitter, to express deep disappointment with current strategies in California for dealing with an explosion of retail theft, which he called an "absolute outrage."

"Whatever we're doing now to combat the epidemic of organized retail theft is not working," Mr. Canepa said in the post. "$30 billion lost to national retail theft is an absolute outrage! The fear of organized retail theft is driving people away from our beloved shopping centers."

According to the latest data from the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail theft and other inventory loss—known as shrink—rose to $94.5 billion in 2021 from $90.8 billion in 2020.

The biggest part of the losses (37 percent) came from external theft, according to the NRF report, which amounts to roughly $35 billion.

"Violence is an increasingly important concern among retailers," including shootings and assault, the report reads. "As has been detailed throughout this report, external theft and [organized retail crime] in particular, is a significant and growing area of concern for retailers."

Products are displayed in locked security cabinets at a Walgreens store that was set to be closed in the coming weeks in San Francisco on Oct. 13, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Products are displayed in locked security cabinets at a Walgreens store that was set to be closed in the coming weeks in San Francisco on Oct. 13, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Mr. Canepa said in a follow-up post that he plans to introduce legislation to form a task force in San Mateo County, comprised of law enforcement and business community members, which would come up with new strategies and sentencing guidelines "to combat these organized theft rings to enhance public safety and protect the economy."

In an interview with CBS, the Democrat county supervisor said that he regrets backing Prop. 47, which passed in 2014, which downgraded certain thefts and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.

'I Made a Mistake'

Mr. Canepa said that he originally backed Prop. 47 because he saw it as a chance to give people serving long sentences for retail theft a second chance.

One of the most well-known statutes in Prop. 47 raised the minimum amount of stolen goods from $400 to $950 for a theft case to be classified as a felony, which critics consider to be the main cause of a rise in petty theft across the state.

The liberal crime bill also allows felons currently serving prison terms to petition for reduced sentences under the new classifications.

"I thought it was a good idea then because we need to give people an opportunity, we need to give people a chance," Mr. Canepa told CBS.

But now, with the explosion of retail theft in California and elsewhere, he says he was wrong to back the measure.

"I made a mistake, it was a big mistake, and you have to acknowledge your mistake. By doing this, what we've done is we're, letting people take thousands and thousands of dollars. And why should people be subjugated?" Mr. Canepa said.

"We can't go on like this," he added.

Retailers Facing 'Near Extinction'

Mr. Canepa told Fox News that criminal mobs had "taken advantage of Prop. 47 because they know that if they do get arrested, they can simply walk out of jail the next day and only face misdemeanor charges," while urging lawmakers to reevaluate the classification of what constitutes a felony.

"If we don’t, then our shopping centers and retail giants such as Nordstrom face near extinction as they are continually looted by mobs of criminals and create a climate of fear for shoppers," he told the outlet.

The nationwide retail crime wave has forced many retailers to close their doors or lock up their merchandise.

Among them is Nordstrom, which announced in May that it was closing its flagship store in downtown San Francisco after 35 years in business, with the company citing "unsafe conditions for customers, retailers, and employees." remove

Matt Dorsey, a member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, said in a post on X reacting to news of the Nordstrom closure in May that he was "very disappointed" to see yet another business shut its doors in the Democrat-run city.

Mr. Dorsey said he would propose a Charter Amendment (pdf) that seeks to bolster law enforcement, including by re-establishing minimum police staffing levels, in a bid to counteract some of the harm done by the post-George Floyd push to "defund" the police.

Ineffective Law Enforcement

Rich Cibotti, a sergeant in the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) told The Epoch Times in a recent interview that he believes current police staffing woes can be traced back to the "defund the police" movement.

“The ‘Defund’ movement caused a lot of people to rethink joining and staying in law enforcement. The SFPD lost hundreds of officers to other departments, resignations, early retirements, and normal retirements,” Mr. Cibotti told The Epoch Times, noting that he was sharing his personal opinions and did not speak on behalf of his department.

Mr. Cibotti said police hiring takes about two years, meaning that current staffing shortages can have big impacts down the road.

He added that pay raises can help drive interest in joining the force, but cautioned that higher wages won't do anything to counteract what he suggested was political hostility towards policing in San Francisco.

“San Francisco is rather difficult politically for the police. To fix that issue, a major shift in policy and public support will be needed to help increase interest in joining the police department,” he said.

Meanwhile, a recent effort by a Democrat lawmaker to modify Prop. 47 by way of an amendment bill failed for the fifth time earlier this year.

“I guess we really are dependent on Batman to bring accountability and justice. Perhaps maybe we should call the Avengers too,” the author of the bill, Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), wrote on X on April 26. 

Assembly Bill (AB) 2718 would have classified petty theft and shoplifting as "serial theft," a new crime under the bill. 

Serial theft of property valued over $500 would have led to prosecution if the offender had two or more previous convictions of theft—effectively reducing the $950 minimum enforced in Prop. 47, according to the bill.

Puzhen Su and Vanessa Serna contributed to this report.

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