LONG BEACH, Calif. (KERO) — Retail theft is an ongoing issue across California including in Kern County. And while Governor Gavin Newsom reenacted Assembly Bill 331 into law targeting organized retail theft some feel it may not be enough.
Assembly Bill 331 is meant to target retail shoplifters across the state. Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer says it’s a start but the real issue is gun violence.
(AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law aimed at curbing organized retail theft as violent smash-and-grab shoplifting costs state businesses millions of dollars every year. The law signed Wednesday reestablishes the crime of organized retail theft, which lawmakers first created in 2018 but allowed to lapse as of July 1. Prosecutors can again seek to charge the crime as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Nationally, organized retail theft causes retailers tens of billions of dollars annually. What effect the law will have is unclear, because district attorneys in some of California's biggest cities have pledged to avoid stiff penalties and sentencing enhancements.
“If the best that Governor Newsom can do to help public safety in California, which is in chaos, is reactivate a law that was already on the books, that did next to nothing then we are in serious trouble.”
AB 331 is a state-mandated program targeting those who are caught shoplifting more than once in groups of 2 or more over a 12 month period.
“You are seeing them all across the state of California. Those organized efforts and they are organized disproportionally efforts and we want to go after those ranks and we want to go after those organized, organized teams of folks that are connected not just within communities but all across the state of California,” said Newsom during a press conference Wednesday morning.
California Highway Patrol will continue to coordinate with local law enforcement to help catch the shoplifters.
But Zimmer says that's not the case in Kern County, adding most thieves commit the crime alone.
“This particular crime while it helps a little with groups of 2 or more people in a 12 month period, that’s very very difficult to prove.”
Zimmer believes there are bigger problems to worry about.
“We see an enormous amount of theft in Kern County and throughout the state. We see theft there but we would like to hear from the governor in how he wants to address the shootings and homicides that are in California.”
She adds that children are being impacted by these shootings and something needs to be done.
“We had a child shot again over the weekend in Arvin. Has he reached out to Los Angeles or to Kern County about all the shootings? He has not done anything in that regard.”
Newsom did address gun violence during the conference.
“We’re up against a gun epidemic and every police chief we talk to, from Bakersfield to Fresno, to Oakland to Sacramento, here in southern parts of California all lay claim to a deep appreciation of proliferation of guns on our streets all across our state, so we have work to do in that space.”
The bill will re-enact the crime of organized theft until January 2026.