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Proposed New Law In California… Good News For Shoplifters

June 18, 2023 Featured Today No Comments

By BARBARA SIMPSON

With all the craziness going on in the world around us, it’s hard to believe that there could be something that is almost unbelievable.
But there is — and since it comes from California, it really isn’t surprising.
There is a huge problem with criminal activities in the state and theft from retail establishments is one of them. According to retailers, shoplifting — called “shrinkage” by them — has exploded across the country. According to a survey in 2022 by the National Retail Federation, retailers are losing almost $100 billion annually from this kind of theft. The total now is much higher.
One of the results is a proposed new law in the California Legislature that is intended to address one aspect of the problem. It’s Senate Bill 553 — already passed in that House — and it’s moving on to the State Assembly for review, possible adjustments, and a final vote. There’s no prediction when that vote might be taken.
Not surprisingly, the measure is gathering lots of criticism.
Supporters of the measure say it will make stores safer for their employees. In light of that, one would think that it would be welcomed by employers, but in fact, they are described as “shocked and angered.”
They say that if the measure becomes law as written, it will make it open season for shoplifters and make all businesses targets for criminals who will think they can just steal to their heart’s content.
The part of the bill which is causing the most controversy would prohibit employers from asking their store employees to confront shoplifters. Business owners say it will embolden the criminals if they know clerks are not allowed to confront them.
The bill is sponsored by Democratic State Sen. Dave Cortese, who defends it by saying this will keep employees safe, because when they try to stop thieves, “people get hurt and oftentimes killed that way.”
Cortese explained: “What we’re saying in the bill is it’s not OK for an employer to take a rank-and-file worker, somebody whose job is really something else…and say, ‘Hey, if there’s an intruder, we’re going to deputize you. You’ll be the one to intervene.’ We don’t want rank-and-file employees to be forced to place themselves in harm’s way.”
The proposed legislation got a reaction from the California Retailers Association, and it wasn’t good. The president, Rachel Michelin, said the bill “is over the top — it goes way too far. . . . I think it will open the doors even wider for people to come in and steal from our stores.”
“It says no employee can approach someone who’s shoplifting even they are trained on how to deter such theft.” She added, “We are opening up the doors to allow people to just walk into stores, steal, and walk out.”
According to Cortese, “the bill does not prohibit employees from stopping theft, but it does prevent employers from asking non-security personnel to confront a person involved in criminal activity.”
Critics of the bill say that regardless of the nuances of the proposed law, it likely does send a message to shoplifters that they will likely not be actively prevented from robbing any stores they want.
The critics also say it’s an example of California Democrats being soft on crime and pandering to criminals, making it easier for them to commit their crimes against large and small businesses.
It’s one of those lose/lose situations. The intent is likely positive, but in the carrying out of the measure, it will present retailers with more problems than they have now.
Essentially what it will mean is that businesses will have to have trained staff to handle such crimes and not depend on their regular personnel to deal with them.
If the law passes as written, how it will all work out in real life remains to be seen. There is no question that something needs to be done to deal with the rising crime rate, but whether this is the answer — who knows. The thieves are bold and have no qualms about taking what they want. They seem not to have any fear of being caught and prosecuted.
As they say, time will tell — but with the criticism of the proposed law, it will be a difficult road ahead.

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