Who is shopping online this holiday season? It seems to be the safer option for many California residents. Out-of-control looting and smash-and-grab robberies are leaving shoppers and retail employees in the Golden State traumatized. Officials have adopted laws that reduce penalties for petty theft, making retailers the prime targets for criminal behavior.
The Downside to Proposition 47
Proposition 47 took effect in 2014, allowing looters and thieves to steal up to $950 worth of merchandise without facing a felony. Instead, the maximum charge is a misdemeanor. The idea was to free up some time and resources for the police and prosecutors to focus on more serious crimes. Many Californians are critical of this policy, and understandably so. Since its implementation, San Francisco has topped the charts in property crime, including theft, shoplifting, and vandalism.
Surveillance videos have captured masses of people entering stores and, seconds later, coming back out with thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise in tow. The criminals are fearless because there is little to no intervention from the police. Retailers may as well gift-wrap the merchandise and offer the shoplifters curbside service. Disastrously, contemptuous criminals are undeterred, uninterrupted, and primarily unpunished.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – Looting? What Looting?
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) believes the theft and destruction are simply a figment of the imagination. During an interview with The Washington Times, she stated, “A lot of these allegations of organized retail theft are not actually panning out” and “I believe it’s a Walgreens in California cited it, but the data didn’t back it up.” In reality, organized retail crime rings are doing quite well. Things have gotten relatively easy for them to operate, thanks to Proposition 47.
AOC’s seemingly endless preposterousness on this topic has earned some brisk responses. For example, Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) said her comments were “tone-deaf and offensive.” Banks used the word offensive because innocent people have lost their lives trying to escape the unchecked criminals.
Jason Brewer, a senior executive vice president at the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), said this about AOC’s comments: “Respectfully, the Congresswoman has no idea what she is talking about. Both the data and stack of video evidence makes (sic) fairly clear that this is a growing problem in need of solutions. If she is not concerned with organized theft and increasingly violent attacks on retail employees, she should just say that.” He described her denial of the existence of these crimes as ignorant and a flat-out lie.
Public Safety – A Major Concern?
With the upheaval in criminal activity, the public’s safety is the primary concern. Or at least it should be. This is the busiest shopping time of the year. Rather than worrying about getting the must-have item on sale, shoppers are more concerned about avoiding swinging crowbars and sledgehammers. So, what steps are city officials taking to ensure their safety? Not many. California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) has increased the number of uniformed officers and patrol cars in heavily hit areas. Probably a good move, but is it enough? It seems that the laws need to be a bit stricter, and the criminals need to face prosecution for their crimes. You know, like it was before.
Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association, is concerned about protecting holiday shoppers and retail employees. In response to the burgeoning looting and smash-and-grabs, Michelin stated, “It’s really about the traumatization of our employees … and our customers. We need to have a safe environment to work. We need to have a safe environment to shop, and we need to do something to stop it.” Michelin also has asked for increased police presence in areas with the most criminal activity.
It appears that the ramifications of Proposition 47 were not thoroughly understood. Did no one consider that decriminalizing certain offenses would increase their number? Seems obvious. Sadly, for the law-abiding citizens of California, living there just got more dangerous. Online shopping seems a lot more secure.
~ Read more from Kirsten Brooker.