Gov. Gavin Newsom to invest $267 million in several dozen cities to combat organized retail theft

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Gov. Newsom to invest $267M to combat organized retail theft
Retail theft has affected many California communities, and Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new $267 million investment to combat crime.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's the largest single investment to combat retail crime in California.

Governor Gavin Newsom says an unprecedented investment will help hire more police, leading to more arrests and more felony prosecutions.

It's a part of his Real Public Safety Plan.

"Today, we put out $267 million on retail theft. New grants, prosecution, we're cracking down on retail theft; we created a statewide task force, 1250 arrests, 1850 investigations- watch that space," said Newsom.

The Governor will send money to 55 cities across the state in his latest plan to tackle the on-going theft problem. The money will go to police and sheriff's departments and district attorneys.

VIDEO: SF Walgreens puts chains on freezers as shoplifters target store 20 times a day, employee says

Shoplifting continues to be an issue for stores across San Francisco. A Walgreens store put chains on its freezers to help stop the ongoing theft.

We've seen the video---bold, brazen thieves making off with thousands of dollars of luxury items.

We also see thieves pocketing everyday items.

Police say this is not your simple shoplifting, but the organized retail crime that is costing California billions of dollars.

MORE: Videos show scope of Bay Area's weekend of organized retail robberies

Organized theft spree: Bay Area high-end retail stores hit with spate of robberies over weekend (1 of 5)

Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said he's impressed by the governor's commitment to the issue.

"It's a breath of fresh air," said Miyamoto.

He said it's important to have the financial support to combat organized retail theft rings.

"The organized retail theft rings have taken advantage of perceptions, flash mobs coming in and taking a large amount of property and merchandise and reselling that and that's what want to curtail," said Miyamoto.

More than 40 sheriff's and police departments will be awarded up to $24 million dollars each. That would help create retail theft investigative units, train loss prevention officers, and install advanced surveillance technology.

MORE: Rising Bay Area retail theft prompts San Mateo Co. supervisor to start task force

SFPD says they're on board.

"We welcome these resources. We would love to have these resources to help hire officers. To help combat the issue of organized retail theft," said Officer Robert Rueca of San Francisco Police Department.

Data from the California Department of Justice shows that while shoplifting incidents in California increased in 2022 compared to 2021 and 2020, the number of shoplifting incidents were higher in pre-pandemic years going back to 2013.

Shoplifting thefts do not encompass all retail thefts, but are a large a subset of them.

In San Mateo County, thieves hit a Sephora recently and stole $3,500 worth of perfume. Thieves also hit this Lego store and stole just as much in Legos.

Police made arrests in both cases.

MORE: 3 teens among 4 arrested after stealing fragrances from San Mateo Sephora: police

San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa says he welcomes the grant money slated for his sheriff's department. But he think more changes are needed-especially with current legislation.

"We have to look at these penalties. The penalties we have in place are not working when it comes to retail theft and organized crime. That has to be revised. We have to look at prosecuting at a higher level than is currently being prosecuted," said Canepa, San Mateo County Supervisor.

San Francisco residents like Rachel Clayton have seen plenty of people shoplifting.

MORE: CHP cracking down on retail crime theft across state

The items at this Walgreen's in the Richmond District are locked up behind plastic shields, the freezer section chained off.

"I'm sorry to say it. It sounds like it's pretty much endemic in the culture anywhere where you go," said Richmond SF resident Rachel Clayton.

But the hope is this new money from the state will give law enforcement and local leaders the support they need to fight back against crime. 13 district attorney's offices across the state could get up to $2 million dollars each.

The San Francisco D.A.'s office says the governor's historic investment is welcome and appreciated and it will support local law enforcement by bolstering their efforts to prevent and prosecute crimes.

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