Police Light Accident ShootingEmergency Lights (Source: File Photo)

Retailers Back California Initiative To Raise Penalties For Property Crime

Police Light Accident ShootingEmergency Lights (Source: File Photo)
Emergency Lights (Source: File Photo) By Arjun Singh

Retailers in California are backing a new ballot proposition that seeks to raise penalties for drug and property crimes amid a surge in such offenses.

In 2014, California voters approved Proposition 47, a ballot measure that reclassified some non-violent offenses such as shoplifting and grand theft as misdemeanors instead of felonies, thereby reducing their penalties. Amid a massive increase in such offenses in California and complaints from businesses, retailers are backing a new ballot initiative — The Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act — that seeks to reverse the effects of Proposition 47 and reclassify these offenses as felonies.

“Cal Retailers supports the initiative,” wrote a representative for the California Retailers Association in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation, adding that “[t]his issue is too important to the safety of our employees, our customers, and the communities in which we operate to not find effective solutions.”

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The commercial robbery rate in California has increased by 13.3% since 2019, the year that Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California took office, according to a study by the Public Policy Institute of California. The same study found that shoplifting increased by 28.7% in 2022, with some of the largest increases being in the San Francisco Bay area.

“We certainly support amending Prop 47, of which the unintended consequences have been disastrous,” wrote Robert Rivinius, the executive director of the Family Business Association of California, in an email to the DCNF.

Under the Constitution of California, persons charged with misdemeanor offenses are entitled to be released without conditions before trial unless a court finds that they threaten public safety, which has been criticized by advocates as enabling offenders to recommit crimes while on release. By raising the offenses to felony status, courts will be able to set tougher bail and release conditions for defendants, which proponents believe will have a deterrent effect on crimes.

“Under this Act, an offender with two prior convictions for theft can be charged with a felony, regardless of the value of the stolen property,” reads the measure, departing from Proposition 47’s threshold of $950 for felony offenses, and “would [also] authorize greater consequences for hard drug dealers whose trafficking kills or seriously injures a person who uses those drugs.” Apart from drug trafficking, the offenses affected by the initiative include burglary, carjacking, robbery, receiving stolen property, shoplifting, identity theft and mail theft.

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The initiative is being proposed by Thomas Hiltachk, the partner of a Sacramento-based law firm, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk LLP, and was approved for circulation by the secretary of State on Oct. 26. It has attracted the financial support of Walmart, which has donated $500,000 to the campaign, according to Politico.

“Enough is enough, we need to fight back against the criminals who are stealing from our communities. We have seen the unintended consequences of Prop. 47’s weakening of our theft laws and I believe California voters are ready to make their voices heard on this issue again,” said former Democratic Assemblymember Rudy Salas of Bakersfield of the current law to CalMatters. In 2022, Salas introduced a bill that would have lowered the monetary threshold of felony offenses to $400.

The initiative must gather the supporting signatures of 546,651 registered voters in California by April 23, 2024. Hiltachk and Walmart did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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