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New push underway to crackdown on retail theft repeat offenders in California: "An enormous violation"

New push underway to crackdown on retail theft repeat offenders in California
New push underway to crackdown on retail theft repeat offenders in California 03:13

SACRAMENTO - On Monday afternoon, California lawmakers and law enforcement agencies gathered at the Governor's Press Room in Downtown Sacramento to address the punishment of repeat retail theft offenders.

Assemblymember James Ramos authored the bill that he said will swing back the pendulum on retail theft. Assembly Bill 1772 would require jail time for repeat theft offenders. 

He introduced the bipartisan bill at the beginning of 2024 along with authors Assemblymember Avelino Valencia and Devon Mathis. 

"It's devastating," said Josh Varner, owner of Zanzibar Fair Trade Imports on Broadway in Sacramento. "It's an enormous violation that honestly is not easily recoverable from." 

Varner's shop was hit by a thief last October who stole $100,000 worth of antiques that were a thousand years old. 

"I'm still really torn up about it quite frankly," he said. "It's going to be a long time before we can fully pick up the pieces, emotionally speaking." 

Multiple "Security Cameras in Use" signs line the outside of the shop, and inside, business is back to usual with a newly installed steel gate. 

Varner told CBS13 that he later found out the thief had a history of stealing from other spots around Sacramento. 

"Every time he's released, within days, he goes on a massive crime sweep," he said. "He's responsible for tens of millions of dollars of theft and damages to tons of businesses across the area." 

For the past decade, Proposition 47 has made theft under $950 a misdemeanor.  AB 1772 would require one to three years of jail time on conviction of a third theft crime. 

"Repeat offenders will no longer receive get out of jail free cards, even if the stolen goods are under $950," said one lawmaker who spoke in support of the bill on Monday. 

Amber Torres, who was shopping at Zanzibar on Monday, said she had seen the rampant retail theft firsthand when she was at Walgreens. 

"She filled her bag up and just walked out as if she paid for it," Torres said. "It made me feel like, 'Hey, that's not fair. If she doesn't have to pay for anything, why should I have to pay for anything?' "

This month, Roseville police busted a 23-year-old woman for allegedly stealing nearly $2,500 worth of Stanley Cups.

These are just a few examples of hundreds of stores that have been hit in recent years. 

"Current law prevents us from combining dollar amounts," said Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper. "This law would fix that part of the problem." 

Sheriff Cooper said that in Sacramento County, they currently have over 33,000 outstanding misdemeanor warrants. They recently arrested 300 people and 233 of these were cited because of Proposition 47. 

"They feel free to just go in, get what they want and leave," Torres said. "It's not fair. I have to pay. I'm not going to do that."

AB 1772 would not do away with the $950 threshold of Proposition 47 but instead target repeat offenders, making them serve time behind bars regardless of the dollar amount. 

The change would mean jail time for repeat theft offenses including grand theft, burglary, robbery, mail theft and more. 

"Criminals feel emboldened to come in and rob businesses wholesale because there are no consequences for their actions anymore," said Varner. 

Lawmakers supporting the bill said the goal is to get AB 1772 on the ballot this year so it can be up to the voters to decide. 

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