A new select committee has been formed in the California Assembly to identify policy solutions for retail theft.
The Select Committee on Retail Theft will be chaired by Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Hollywood) and is comprised of bipartisan members from across the state. The committee, which will work through the 2024 legislative session, will provide a forum to engage impacted stakeholders, including large retailers, small businesses, criminal justice reform advocates, law enforcement, and representatives of workers and the public.
“We appreciate Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas and Assemblymember Zbur for providing leadership on this important issue for California businesses and consumers,” said California Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jennifer Barrera.
Rise in Retail Theft
Retail theft — which encompasses shoplifting, commercial burglary, and commercial robbery — has seen an alarming rise in California, most notably, but not exclusively, in the Bay Area, the Central Valley, and Los Angeles County.
Currently, Los Angeles County has the highest rate of commercial robbery, which is a violent crime defined as theft involving the threat or use of force. Commercial burglary has increased statewide, becoming the most common type of retail theft in recent years, and is at its highest rate since 2008.
In 2022, Kern, San Francisco, and Fresno experienced the highest rates of commercial burglary, and rates in Fresno, Alameda, and Orange counties were 50% higher than before the pandemic.
A recent CalChamber poll found that during the last year, 44% of voters have felt the need to change shopping habits because they feel unsafe or uncomfortable at a particular retail store or location.
In 2023, the Governor and Legislature, recognizing the gravity of this issue, awarded $267 million to 55 cities and counties to increase arrests and prosecutions for organized retail crime. The funding, part of the Governor’s Real Public Safety Plan, was dispersed on October 1, 2023, to 34 police departments, seven sheriffs’ departments, one probation department, and 13 district attorney offices to prevent and investigate cases of organized retail theft and arrest and prosecute more suspects. The Select Committee on Retail Theft will review and explore additional policy solutions to address the crisis.
“Californians have had enough of these smash-and-grab crimes and shameless shoplifting incidents,” Rivas said. “They’re appalling and affect everyone. The Assembly understands we must do more to address root causes, protect businesses owners and fight criminal activity. It’s my expectation that the Retail Theft select committee will act with focus and urgency.”
The 11 select committee members are:
- Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Hollywood) – Committee Chair;
- Assemblymember Juan Alanis (R-Merced & Stanislaus);
- Assemblymember David Alvarez (D-San Diego);
- Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Alameda & San Francisco);
- Assemblymember Vince Fong (R-Kern & Tulare);
- Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco);
- Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento);
- Assemblymember Liz Ortega (D-Alameda);
- Assemblymember Blanca Pacheco (D-Los Angeles & Orange);
- Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Orange);
- Assemblymember Pilar Schiavo (D-Los Angeles).