Assembly Committee OKs Bill to Deter Organized Retail Theft

A California Chamber of Commerce-supported bill to help retailers limit losses from theft won unanimous bipartisan approval this week from a Senate policy committee.

AB 1065 (Jones-Sawyer; D-South Los Angeles) strengthens penalties by creating an Organized Retail Crime felony in California law.

Organized retail crime is theft conducted with the intent to convert stolen merchandise into financial gain rather than for personal use. Perpetrators of such thefts usually are large and sophisticated organizations that steal merchandise from several stores in many jurisdictions and have a fencing operation to sell the ill-gotten merchandise online or through other means, such as flea markets.

Retailers are experiencing escalating merchandise loss that is adversely affecting their profitability. General merchandise retailers and grocery stores have experienced an average 40% increase in losses and chain drug stores a doubling of losses since the implementation of Proposition 47, approved by voters in November 2014 to make nonviolent property crimes punishable as misdemeanors whenever the value of the property taken does not exceed $950.

Small retail businesses are especially vulnerable without the resources to withstand repeated losses.

The organized habitual offenders steal items under the $950 threshold. If caught, the thief often will be back on the street the same day.

AB 1065 strengthens the capacity for local justice systems to hold accountable people who are engaged in serial or chronic retail theft and allows law enforcement to pursue felony prosecutions.

If multiple thefts involving the same thieves occur in multiple counties, AB 1065 allows the crime to be prosecuted in any jurisdiction where the thefts happened.

The CalChamber supports AB 1065 because retail theft is bad for the economy, resulting in lost tax revenues for government, higher consumer costs and potentially dangerous workplaces for employees.

Key Vote

The Senate Public Safety Committee passed AB 1065 on March 13 by a vote of 7-0.

Ayes: Skinner (D-Berkeley), Anderson (R-Alpine), Bradford (D-Gardena), Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), J. Stone (R-Temecula), Wiener (D-San Francisco).

The bill will be considered next by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Staff Contact: Valerie Nera

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Valerie Nera specializes in advocacy on agriculture, water, resources, crime, and banking and finance issues for the CalChamber. She joined the CalChamber staff in 1978 as a legislative assistant on agricultural issues. She also has lobbied air, environmental and privacy issues for the CalChamber. She earned a B.A. with honors from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. See full bio.