California lawmakers look for ways to combat retail theft

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WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (KABC) — California lawmakers are looking for ways to combat retail theft.

During an Assembly Select Committee hearing in West Hollywood Friday, leaders heard from retailers, criminal justice reform advocates and law enforcement officials on the matter.

The California Highway Patrol was among the agencies that shared their experience.

“We have noticed many of these cases will start in one jurisdiction but they’ll go beyond that. They’ll go outside the state, they’ll go into other cities, other counties,” said Sean Duryee, CHP Commissioner. “We are able, as a statewide law enforcement agency, to connect those dots and put those cases together.”

CHP officials say partnerships and training with local enforcement agencies and retailers work, and have led to the recovery of $41 million of stolen goods since 2019.

The California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) says it sees a great need for funding to help local jurisdictions combat organized retail theft.

“The total amount of funding that was requested was $379 million and that was $137 million more than we had available to offer so this high level of response reflects the significant need and interest in the field for resources to address (organized retail theft),” said Katheleen Howard with BSCC.

As law enforcement leaders pushed for increased punishments, opponents said stricter laws target the wrong people.

“They focus on the offenders that are most vulnerable, are mentally ill, are unhoused… people living in poverty. The increased penalties are not a deterrent, they’re not a solution. They do not work,” said Sean McDonald with the L.A. County Public Defender’s Office.

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