Thursday, September 07, 2023

Making Crime Pay Through Legislation: California's Senate Bill 553

There's an old expression which says that crime doesn't pay. Well, tell that to the hundreds of individuals brazenly walking into retail establishments throughout California and helping themselves to whatever they want while store employees either stare helplessly or run to another part of the store and hide.

Some bring large garbage bags with them while others just bring large garbage cans. Even little kids as young as 8 or 9 are getting into the act! Security cameras and cell photo phone camera doesn't faze these criminals. Some even stop to pose in front of them.  

The result has been the loss of millions of dollars worth of merchandise and the closure of numerous businesses throughout the state, with some choosing to pull up stakes and move. The result is the loss of billions in tax revenue for city, county and state's coffers plus the loss of jobs and the cascading effect that brings.  Crime apparently does indeed pay, particularly if you have the help of inept politicians. What is happening to California?

The answer is Senate Bill 553, otherwise known as the "Occupational Safety: workplace violence: restraining orders and workplace violence prevention plan" which was introduced in February 2023 by State Senator Dave Cortese of San Jose. The bill was intended, at least in principal, to reduce violence in the workplace, particularly mass shootings, murders, and assaults.

However, the bill has a unintended effect. It prohibits employees from taking any action in the event of a robbery, be it petty shoplifting or armed robbery. Specifically, the bill makes it illegal for employees or managers to confront or defend themselves against looters, shoplifters, burglars,  or run-of-the-mill thieves or face a fine up to $18,000 dollars.  

While the bill calls for employers to provide "active shooter" training for all employees and maintaining a log of all violent incidents on store property, it still prevents anyone from physically confronting thieves.  As a result, an event such as shoplifting for example, employees may not to interfere in anyway (referred to as the "hospital standard").  All they can do is watch as their merchandize and profits go out the door, and for many of the employees, their jobs are going out the door too.

Case in point is Nordstrom, a high end department store which has been located in the heart of San Francisco for 35 years. Due to a dramatic increase in crime (especially violent crime), runaway homelessness, the ramifications of being a "sanctuary city", and all the problems that brings, are only partly to blame.  The chief cause for the closures is the dramatic increase in shoplifting, costing millions in stolen merchandise, since the introduction of Bill 553 this past January (thanks to the passage of Proposition 47 in 2014, shoplifting merchandise with a value up to $950 dollars is now treated as a misdemeanor. Such thefts are longer investigated or actively prosecuted).    

Along with Nordstrom, 37 other major retailers in downtown San Francisco such as Whole Foods, Home Depot, and Anthropologie are calling it quits too. Target reported  a "organized retail crime" network for costing the retail store some $400 million dollars worth of stolen merchandize in 2022.  Drug stores, liquor outlets, high dollar boutiques and jewelry stores, as well as gun shops have also become popular targets for these cheap wannabe "Dillingers".  

To make matters worse, California is facing a serious shortage of law enforcement officers. The number of sworn officers is down by over 13.2%, which is the lowest level since 1991, with nearly every major county facing shortages in double digit percentages.  Los Angeles County is down 12%, which represents 9000 officers while Riverside County, which includes the upscale community of Palm Springs, is down by 25%.  Sacramento County, which takes in the state's capital, has lost 21% of its police force.

The effects of the "peaceful" riots by Antifa and BLM have also played a role too. Demands to "defund" the police has had a serious negative effect on police moral. Polls reflect a new lows in confidence for the police, especially among Democrats and the black community.  Police budgets have been reduced, resulting in fewer promotions or pay raises and more mandatory overtime (which often leads to increased on-the-job stress and burnout). In many instances, police departments have become more dependent on federal grants to cover budgetary short falls.  

The result has been large numbers of police officers are taking early retirement, switching career paths within law enforcement, with a significant number seeking law enforcement careers outside of California, or simply quitting. 

As an aside, the stress and strain of being an "good cop" has resulted in increase cases of alcohol abuse, divorces, psychological issues involving professional counseling and increased suicide rates by officers (officers have a 54% higher rate of suicide than civilians according to 2022 McAward report. In fact, more police officers die by their own hand than are killed in the line of duty).

Senate Bill 553 is one of those instances where good intentions went astray. It was an attempt to reduce violent crime in the workplace, but due to a failure to fully grasp the problem and poor wording only made it worse, which has triggered a serious crime wave effecting the entire state.

While the bill has passed several key hurls, it's still has a ways to go before it reaches Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom's desk. The bill has already faced one amendment by its author, Senator Dave Cortese, the changes simply weren't adequate. As it exists, Bill 553 is like punching a hole in the hull of the Titanic for the water to drain back out.  

Senate Bill 553 is in need of a serious rewrite before becoming law if it is to prevent store owners from being forced into handing over the keys to the business to the criminals. In a state plagued by "feel good" intentions gone amuck, one can only hope common sense at some point intervenes before then.  

In researching this article, I came across literally dozens of videos showing the thieves brazenly walking into stores, sometimes alone or in pairs, and in other cases, in packs, and stealing everything they can get their hands on. I've included several links below (most are five minutes or less in length).

As an aside, some of links mention that this type of behavior has started to spread to other cities such as New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago. Apparently a bill isn't always required, but it sure doesn't hurt.


Video: California bill aims to prevent retail theft,business groups oppose

Video: SF stores install exit gates, chain locks to stop shoplifters

Video: Thieves target Oakland 7-Eleven stores

Video: Police say shoplifted merchandize beingsold at Bay Area flea markets

Video: Raw video captures dozens of thieves swarming Nordstrom  department store in Los Angeles

Video: Warnings about surge in 'organized retail crime": GMA


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What crime? Calif. advances bill barring retailers fromconfronting thieves

Calif. Senate passes bill to stop employees confrontingshoplifters

California's Notable Declines In Law Enforcement Staffing

Commentary: Stop retail thief? Store owners say this billwill promote it


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