A bill before the California Assembly hopes to reduce a problem that’s plagued Southern California business owners for years now: organized retail theft.

Assembly Bill 1708 both allows shoplifting charges to be pursued as misdemeanors or felonies if that person has multiple previous offenses. Alternatively, with a judge’s approval, shoplifters can be placed into a diversion program for rehabilitation.

As the law currently stands, theft can only be charged as a felony if the amount of goods taken is worth at least $950 in most cases. If this bill is signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, that figure drops to $400.

“This bill is proposing a balanced approach to focus on repeat offenders, to hold them more accountable while, at the same time, providing diversion programs, treatment programs like for substance abuse addiction as well as mental health,” said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), the bill’s author.

AB 1708 reverses some of the changes implemented by the controversial Proposition 47, which reclassified some felony theft charges as misdemeanors.

Paramount Mayor Isabel Aguayo said the proposed changes to Prop 47 are “modest, but meaningful.”

“I’ve personally heard countless times from residents I serve that they are fed up with being victims of crime … We certainly do not want to return to the days of overincarceration, but reform needs to happen,” she said.

AB 1708 follows a series of tribulations for business owners, first due to pandemic-related restrictions and then from flash-mob style burglary rings and other types of commercial theft.

From a Compton gas station this past weekend to Beverly Hills and Maratsuchi’s own Torrance, thieves have targeted stores of all types all across Southern California and much of the state.

After so many incidents, it seems the public is ready for reform.

In a press release, Maratsuchi highlighted the support AB 1708 has garnered thus far, including bipartisan coauthors Sabrina Cervantes, Bill Essayli, Mike Gipson, Evan Low, Cottie Petrie-Norris, Blanca Rubio and Carlos Villapudua.

“I am proud to join my colleagues in the Legislature together with bill sponsors the League of California Cities, California Retailers Association, California Police Chiefs Association, and California District Attorneys Association in a growing movement to restore balance and common sense to our public safety laws,” Muratsuchi added in the release.