Bakersfield, CA – A California Democrat introduced legislation on Monday that would repeal part of a law that critics believe is to blame for the wave of flash-mob style and smash-and-grab robberies that has occurred since Proposition 47 was enacted.
Proposition 47 was passed by Democrats in 2014 and, in part, reduced the crime of shoplifting to a misdemeanor if the amount of goods stolen was less than $950, KGET reported.
“Enough is enough, we need to fight back against the criminals who are stealing from our communities,” California Assemblyman Rudy Salas said when he announced the amendment on Jan. 3.
“We have seen the unintended consequences of Prop 47’s weakening of our theft laws and I believe California voters are ready to make their voices heard on this issue again,” Salas told reporters.
His amendment – Assembly Bill 1603 – would reduce the threshold for petty theft to $400, meaning anything above that would result in felony charges, KGET reported.
Prior to the passage of Proposition 47, $450 was the marker between misdemeanor and felony charges.
California business owners begged for help from state lawmakers as retail thefts skyrocketed after Proposition 47 went into effect, KFSN reported.
The owner of a camera store said his business has been the victim of numerous brazen thefts.
“We feel a little bit like everyone sort of just forgot us and said whatever happens here is acceptable,” Stan Grosz, with Horn Photo, told KFSN.
Grosz said people walk out of the store in broad daylight regularly with pricey electronics.
He said thieves act like customers and then steal expensive display items, KFSN reported.
The store owner explained that because he competes with big retailers like Amazon, it’s very important for him to make his merchandise available for shoppers to try out.
“So you can’t keep everything locked away in a place like Horn Photo because they come here to be able to touch a camera. If they can’t touch it, then they are buying it online,” Grosz said.
He said he supported Salas’ amendment to Proposition 47, KFSN reported.
“It will discourage more theft. If it discourages more theft, then we are moving in the right direction,” Grosz explained.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims is also a supporter of AB 1603, KFSN reported.
“It was maybe an experiment. It failed. It’s time to change things,” Sheriff Mims said.
The sheriff said she thought that if the state lets thieves off too easily, they are more likely to steal again and their crimes escalate, KFSN reported.
“Unfortunately, what happens is they become so emboldened, their crimes become more and more serious,” she said.
Sheriff Mims said that reducing the petty theft maximum to $400 would be a game changer for law enforcement because the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor affected so many aspects of a case, KFSN reported.
“Whether or not they stay in jail. What their bail amount is. The seriousness of the offense. Prior convictions. This could be very detrimental to someone who has a criminal history,” the sheriff explained.
The timing of Salas’ introduction of AB 1603 hit just as California retailers were trying to recover from a brutal holiday shopping season that saw unprecedented mob-style thefts.
Multiple stores all over the Bay Area reported mobs of thieves pulling up and blocking roadways with vehicles as they loaded their booty and made getaways with nothing blocking their way.
There were so many flash-mob style robberies of high-end businesses immediately after Thanksgiving that San Francisco Mayor London Breen announced she was shutting down the streets around the city’s Union Square shopping district.
“There will be limited access in terms of when you come to this area,” Breed announced.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said at the time that he was on board with the mayor’s plan to restrict access to the streets around Union Square just as the height of the holiday shopping season began, SFGate reported.
“We have to make it difficult for people do to what they did last night,” Chief Scott said. “Pull up right next to a business, shatter the windows, wipe out everything they can carry, get right in their cars parked at the curb and leave.”