New Calif. Law Opens Floodgates for Crooks to Get Away with Theft

‘The consequences are so small in nature that it makes the risk worth it…’

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(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) California has seen a sharp uptick in theft-related crimes over the past year, and law enforcement said a new law raising the felony threshold for the crime is to blame.

The state legislature passed Proposition 47 in 2014, raising the amount a suspect could steal before being charged with a felony from $450 to $950. As a result, more theft is occurring, but fewer arrests are happening.

Police are calling it “organized retail theft.” Criminals target retail stores in groups, rushing in to grab as much merchandise as they can and then running off. Because this is only a misdemeanor offense, they know police won’t bother tracking them down.

Even if they do get caught, they’re not worried about the punishment, said Lt. Mark Donaldson, a Vacaville, Calif., police officer.

“They know the law. One of the first things they ask us [is] ‘Can’t I just get a ticket so I can be on my way?’” Donaldson told CBS Sacramento. “The consequences are so small in nature that it makes the risk worth it.”

Proposition 47 was supposed to make neighborhoods “safer,” but it’s done the exact opposite, Donaldson added.

“It’s a boldness like we’re seeing never before and just a disregard for fellow human beings,” he said.

Just this past year, Vacaville experienced 746 retail thefts. Since 2014, the annual loss to retail theft in Vacaville has more than doubled. Organized robberies have also increased by 40% this past year, according to CBS Sacramento.

Most of these criminals won’t get away with it, though, said Thomas Hoffman, a retired police chief and advocate for Proposition 47.

“The law is clear,” he said, “they can be held accountable.”

But a new study by the National Retail Federation found that in states with laws like Proposition 47, theft has become more common.

“In states where the felony threshold has increased, over half report an increase in [organized retail theft] case value. None reported a decrease. It appears that criminals understand the new threshold and have increased their thefts to meet it,” the study states.