A bill recently introduced in the California State Legislature would “stop the cycle” of retail theft, the head of a retail association told Fox News Digital.
Retail theft is “still impacting our employees, our customers, and it’s really taking its toll on the neighborhoods in which retailers operate in,” said Rachel Michelin, president and CEO of California Retailers Association.
“It’s certainly still a problem” and many are shoplifting “because they know they can get away with it,” Michelin added.
Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat, introduced a bill on March 24 in partnership with Michelin’s group and the California Hotel and Lodging Association aimed at deterring serial retail theft. The bill, if passed, would strengthen an existing law that made it so shoplifters would only face felony prosecution if they stole $950 worth of goods in a single theft. The threshold was previously $400.
Muratsuchi’s legislation would allow prosecutors to charge shoplifters with a felony if goods they stole across multiple instances hit $950.
“Currently in California, we have a $950 threshold,” Michelin said. “You could hit a target six or seven times in a month, and those are all individual misdemeanors.”
“In California, you can not aggregate,” she continued.
“This isn’t about putting them in jail,” Michelin told Fox News. “This is about connecting them to diversion programs.”
Michelin said diversion programs are support services, like job training, intended to address root causes of crime, including poverty and mental health issues.
Michelin said she believed the bill could lead to “relief when it comes to retail theft. But more importantly, we think this could have a huge impact on some of the other issues facing California, particularly homelessness, increase in drug addiction and mental health issues.”
The bill originally was expected to be heard Tuesday morning in the Public Safety Committee. But Muratsuchi pulled the legislation after members on the panel proposed amendments “that completely undermined the spirit of the bill and failed to address the root causes of retail theft,” Michelin said in a statement.