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California Cities, Retailers, and Law Enforcement Urge Passage of AB 1708 to Combat Retail Theft

For immediate release:

Bill would allow felony charges for repeat retail theft offenders while also providing diversion programs involving substance abuse and mental health treatment

Torrance, CA - Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) joined the League of California Cities, the California Retailers Association, California Police Chiefs Association, and the California District Attorneys Association for a press conference urging the Assembly Public Safety Committee to pass legislation to combat retail theft. Assembly Bill (AB) 1708 would allow either a felony or misdemeanor charge for any person who has two or more convictions for theft-related offenses and who is subsequently convicted of petty theft or shoplifting. The bill also allows those charged with petty theft with prior convictions to participate in a diversion program, as appropriate, for substance abuse and mental health treatment. In addition to Muratsuchi, AB 1708 is jointly authored by eight bipartisan Assemblymembers: Sabrina Cervantes, Bill Essayli, Mike Gipson, Evan Low, Cottie Petrie-Norris, Blanca Rubio, and Carlos Villapudua. AB 1708 will be heard in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 18, 2023.

A report by the National Retail Federation highlighted that retail theft accounts for nearly $30 billion in economic loss per year. Many of these incidents can be traced back to repeat offenders. According to the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), a few repeat offenders are driving the city's retail crime. SFPD data identified 116 repeat offenders in 2020 and 33% of them were rearrested by the department. In Orange County, 45% of individuals prosecuted for theft-related crimes were repeat offenders, and 23% had three or more prior convictions.

"AB 1708 is a common-sense fix to Proposition 47 to combat retail theft," said lead bill author Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi. "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. 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."

"AB 1708 will provide much-needed relief for CA's consumers, employees and neighborhoods, which are greatly impacted by increasingly brazen and dangerous retail theft throughout the state," said Rachel Michelin, President and CEO of the California Retailers Association. "We urge the Assembly Public Safety Committee to pass this balanced legislative proposal and send to the full legislature for consideration. Californians are looking for answers, not political grandstanding."

"Californians of all political stripes are calling for consequences for those who break the law," said California District Attorneys Association CEO Greg Totten. "We stand by the retailers, many of whom are small business owners who struggle the most to maintain their businesses after being targeted by thieves."

"When a person can steal again and again without facing meaningful consequences, or without having to commit to rehabilitative programing, we see those individuals cycle through our criminal justice system, to their own detriment and our communities. AB 1708 will fix this problem by giving judges an ability to levy penalties or mandated rehabilitation programs that we know work to change behavior," said Chief Alex Gammelgard, President of California Police Chiefs Association.

"Residents throughout California deserve common-sense solutions that reduce crime and increase public safety," said Paramount Mayor Isabel Aguayo. "Cities stand in proud support of AB 1708, which would give voters an opportunity to fix the unintended consequences of Proposition 47 and increase accountability for repeat theft offenders. We believe this combination will be truly effective in increasing safety and wellness in every community in the state."

Although this is occurring nationwide, California is recognized as a hot spot for these activities. The National Retail Foundation notes that three of the top 10 cities for retail crime are in California. Los Angeles ranks number one, with San Francisco and Sacramento ranking numbers five and ten on the list.

If approved by the voters, AB 1708 would hold repeat offenders accountable and establishes a pretrial diversion program for persons charged with theft-related offenses that would offer appropriate mental health and substance abuse treatment in an effort to avoid recidivism.

Media Feed
California Cities, Retailers, and Law Enforcement Urge Passage of AB 1708 to Combat Retail Theft
Downloadable Link:

Below is a link with audio cuts from Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, Paramount Mayor Isabel Aguayo, Yolo County DA Jeff W. Reisig, and Chief Alex Gammelgard, plus full presser.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi represents California's 66th Assembly District, which includes El Segundo, Gardena, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, San Pedro and Torrance. Muratsuchi is Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Aerospace, and a member of the Committees on Budget, Budget Subcommittee on Education, Military and Veterans Affairs, Natural Resources, Utilities and Energy and the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies.

Asm. Muratsuchi
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