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Public Safety Chair’s Statement on Recent Organized Crime Thefts

For immediate release:

With recent reports of large groups between 30 and 50 individuals, ransacking retailers in Los Angeles County, it is worth noting that the California Highway Patrol’s (CHP) Organized Retail Crime Taskforce (ORCTF) has the capacity and authority to investigate each crime, retrieve stolen merchandise, and arrest perpetrators and those involved in the planning, execution, and distribution of stolen merchandise from each theft. This in addition to the existing enforcement authority of both local law enforcement and the California Attorney General.

California law mandates felony charges on any retail theft over $950 and my bill AB 2294 allows law enforcement to arrest suspects at the crime scene and issue bench warrants for repeat offenders. I have also successfully championed nearly $500 million in funding to state and local law enforcement to bolster efforts to end organized retail theft.

Organized retail crimes (ORCs) are conducted by gangs that take merchandise and immediately sell (also known as fencing) products online or at in-person markets to fund other illegal activities including drugs and the purchase of weapons.

My bill, AB 1065, signed by Governor Newsom, created the CHP Retail Crime Taskforce in 2018. In 2022, the CHP’s Task Force was credited with conducting 1,296 investigations netting 645 arrests, and roughly $26 million in recovered merchandise.

As Chair of the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, I remain focused on ensuring law enforcement agencies have the tools to perform their duties and that they are working with local District Attorney offices to pursue convictions using current law.

Over the last two years, California has provided the following investments to combat retail theft:

  • $255 million in grants for local law enforcement to combat retail crime.
  • $30 million to local District Attorneys to create retail theft prosecution teams.
  • $15 million in annual funding for the CHP Organized Retail Theft Taskforce.
  • $36 million to support the Department of Justice’s anti-crime task force.

Finally, to ensure our laws are effective, I led a bipartisan effort to successfully request that the independent Little Hoover Commission provide the State Legislature with a report on retail theft, shoplifting, and organized retail theft. The results of this study will provide a blueprint for moving forward and improving existing law, if needed.