California lawmakers have introduced a bill that aims to crack down on repeat offenders of organized retail crime.
The bill, formally known as AB 1708, will either allow a felony or misdemeanor charge for anyone who has two or more convictions for theft-related offenses, a news release said.
The proposed legislation would also require those with prior petty theft convictions to participate in diversion programs for substance abuse and mental health treatment, as needed, as a way to break the cycle.
The bill was introduced by California Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi, Sabrina Cervantes, Bill Essayli, Mike Gipson, Evan Low, Cottie Petrie-Norris, Blanca Rubio, and Carlos Villapudua.
Assemblymember Essayli is a Republican, while everyone else is a Democrat.
Assemblymember Muratsuchi held a press conference on Tuesday alongside members from the League of California Cities, the California Retailers Association, California Police Chiefs Association and the California District Attorneys Association to garner more support for the proposed legislation.
“AB 1708 is a common-sense fix to Proposition 47 to combat retail theft,” Muratsuchi said in a statement.
“This bill proposes a balanced approach to fight retail theft, holding repeat offenders more accountable while seeking to address the root causes of the crimes through diversion programs that would provide substance abuse and mental health treatment as needed.”
California voters passed Prop. 47 in 2014, which reclassified felony theft offenses as misdemeanors, The Associated Press reported.
A report by the National Retail Federation found that retail theft accounts for nearly $30 billion in annual economic loss. Experts found that many of the crimes were committed by repeat offenders and that while these crimes happened nationally, California is a “hot spot” for such activities.
The report found three of the top 10 “hot spots” for retail crime are in California, with Los Angeles ranking number one, San Francisco ranking fifth, and Sacramento ranking tenth on the list, according to the news release.
In March, LAPD’s Commercial Crimes Division Organized Retail Theft Unit detectives announced they were searching for three women who targeted and stole merchandise from stores throughout L.A. County.
Earlier this month, three men were also arrested in connection with a criminal retail theft organization that allegedly targeted multiple Home Depot stores across Southern California.