LOS ANGELES (AP/CBSLA) — In the wake of a rash of smash-and-grab lootings at stores statewide, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday in no uncertain terms that he thinks shoplifters should be prosecuted under existing California laws, as he called out local officials whom he said have been reluctant to do so.
He was responding to a recent run of large-scale thefts in Los Angeles and across California in which groups of individuals shoplift en masse from stores or smash and grab from display cases. Single operators have also been a growing problems for retailers who say the thieves face little consequence.
On Nov. 21, the storefronts of a Louis Vuitton and a Saks Fifth Avenue on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills were damaged by smash-and-grab burglaries.
On Nov. 22, a large group of looters took part in a smash-and-grab burglary at the Nordstrom in The Grove in the Fairfax District. Three suspects were apprehended folowing a police pursuit.
On Nov. 24, a Nordstrom at the Westfield Topanga mall in Canoga Park was also targeted by several burglars.
On Nov. 26, a large group rushed into a Bottega Veneta clothing store on Melrose in Beverly Grove.
A smash-and-grab burglary also took place at an Alhambra ice-cream shop on Nov. 27.
Newsom, a Democrat who has boasted of his criminal justice reform efforts, promised that the proposed budget he sends to state lawmakers next month will "significantly increase our efforts to go after these retail rings."
Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Newsom appointee who has touted his own progressive reforms, separately made similar get-tough comments Wednesday.
Both defended Proposition 47, a ballot measure approved by California voters in 2014 that reduced certain theft and drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.
Property crime dropped significantly since then despite the recent high-profile cases, Newsom said. State crime statistics show property crimes dipped 7.7% last year, led by a nearly 15% drop in larceny thefts and 4% drop in burglaries.
But Newsom said both the recent spate of mass thefts and lack of prosecutions are "unacceptable."
"If people are breaking in, people stealing your property, they need to be arrested. Police need to arrest them. Prosecutors need to prosecute them. Judges need to hold people accountable for breaking the law," Newsom said. "These are not victimless crimes, and I have no empathy for these criminal elements."
Even thefts under $950 should be prosecuted as misdemeanors or "stacked" into felony complaints if there are repeat offenses, he said, contending some officials "choose" not to do so.
"I want to see local efforts. I want to see them stepped up," said Newsom, formerly San Francisco's mayor. "Look at the laws. You have the ability. Stack repeat offenders and move to prosecute."
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin last week announced felony charges against nine people for a series of thefts, and Bay Area prosecutors announced a joint effort to combat organized retail theft.
L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón, who also ran on a reform platform, did not respond to comment requests.
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