State bill looks to crack down on retail theft

Proposed Assembly Bill 1960 seeks harsher punishments for retail theft totalling to over $50,000 of stolen property

Karis Caddell
Published January 31, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

SACRAMENTO – A new piece of legislation has been brought to the table to further crack down on retail theft in the state, and although the bill is still in the early stages of its life, local agencies have already given a vote of support in order to address.

On Jan. 29, Assemblywoman Esmeralda Soria introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1960 to address rising retail theft across the state, and hosted a roundtable with law enforcement leaders and law enforcement challenges facing the Central Valley. AB 1960 would provide prosecutors the ability to hold criminals accountable by imposing a stiffer sentence for retail theft.

“Our communities are hurting. Crime, especially retail theft, is not only a problem in my district,” Soria said via press release. “This is an issue affecting the entire state. We must address it with urgency and action. This bill will do that and our cities will be safer as a result.” 

The bill reinstates a tiered penalties enhancement system if the value of the stolen or damaged property is exceptionally high. Specifically, it would provide a sentence enhancement of up to five years when the property loss is more than $50,000. 

Although the law is still in its beginning stages, Stuart Anderson, communication director for Tulare County District Attorney, said the district attorney’s office would stand behind the bill in support of the issue it is looking to address.

“Though just introduced with the full legislative process in front of it, on its face, our office would support this legislation’s intent to address retail crime in our state,” Anderson said.

Not only that, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama also gave a statement of support for the bill via the news release, where he said retail theft and organized retail theft have “become an increasingly growing problem in California the last few years.” 

“Enhanced penalties to hold criminals accountable will make a significant difference in protecting our businesses and those who frequent them,”  Balderrama said.

According to a press release from Soria’s office, AB 1960 is also supported by the Madera County District Attorney, Merced County District Attorney, California District Attorneys Association as well as the Orange County District Attorney.

“This legislation helps us make sure the punishment matches the crime,” Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno said in the press release. “This will make sure that people who steal large amounts, over $50,000, are held accountable. It allows us to zero in on those who take advantage of and victimize our neighbors in this way. It’s time for greater accountability in California.”

According to the press release, Assemblywoman Soria is lookinh forward to introducing legislation that will also address the fentanyl crisis and other public safety challenges facing the communities of the Central Valley. In addition to introducing AB 1960, Assemblywoman Soria is a co-author on AB 1772 which will revise Proposition 47 to make certain crimes a felony.

Karis Caddell