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Residents demanding change as string of thefts plagues Southland

Southern California residents, distressed by a string of thefts stretching back over recent years.

The most recent incident, at a TJ Maxx in Fontana, was caught on camera by another patron's cellphone. It showed three women storming the front entrance of the store, ripping purses and other merchandise directly off of the rack -- security wires and all.

"It was real fast," he said, detailing the events to CBS reporters Friday evening.

The man who recorded it all said the thieves had to do one simple thing, walk in and steal them in plain sight. No employees or other customers attempted to step in and prevent the crime, allowing the women to walk out of the door with hundreds of dollars of free merchandise.

However, this does fall in line with the advice of law enforcement officials, who recommend that if you witness a like-event in person to avoid confrontation and call authorities instead.

Since he was the one who recorded the video, he wanted his identity to remain confidential, especially since he provided the evidence to investigators who are working to identify the suspects. The event hasn't left him without feelings of displeasure though.

"We work and earn our money," he said. "Obviously, we're in line trying to purchase something and then these people are walking away with it. It's not fair."

Unfortunately, due to  California State Proposition 47, which went into effect back in 2014, certain crimes where damages total less than $950 are classified as misdemeanors rather than felonies.

The TJ Maxx incident is just one event in what has become a trend across the Southland with surveillance camera footage showing similar events happening in a Rialto Walgreens where several suspects are seen stealing beauty supplies, and a Ulta Beauty in Southgate that showed much of the same, as five suspects were caught shoplifting on camera.

"A lot of these people are doing it because of the fact that you're not really getting charged with nothing, you know?" the witness continued.

He's one of many Southern California residents who are more than fed up with the weakened sanctions thanks to the proposition. A recent poll out of the University of California, Berkeley, shows that 59% of people across the state are in support of changes to Proposition 47, while 30% preferred to leave the law unchanged.

Despite the majority support, a recent proposal to repeal the proposition -- Assembly Bill 1599 -- failed in committee in early January.

With no clear end to the issue in sight, as Los Angeles County law enforcement notes a marked increase in follow-home robberies, smash-and-grab robberies, catalytic converter thefts and more, many aren't sure that things will get better in the near future.

"To be honest, I think it's gonna get worse," the witness concluded. "With gas and groceries and everything skyrocketing, people gotta do what they gotta do to make ends meet."

California Highway Patrol officials shared that their Retail Theft Task Force has arrested over 400 individuals, recovering over $20 million in stolen goods since the beginning of 2020.

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