Government Relations & Public Policy
Ten years ago, nearly 60% of California voters approved a ballot measure, known as Proposition 47, that increased the dollar amount for property thefts to be qualified as felonies from $400 to $950. Supporters claimed that Prop 47 was a solution to reduce overcrowding in prisons, while opponents warned that retail thieves would be essentially given a slap on the wrist for stealing anything under $950. Since the measure’s approval in 2014, the state’s 10 largest counties have seen a rise in commercial burglary, with counties like Orange (98%), Los Angeles (62%) and Santa Clara County (61%) seeing the biggest increases, according to data from the Public Policy Institute of California.
The recent rise in organized retail crime has motivated a bipartisan group of California district attorneys, sheriffs, retailers and retail property owners to add a new measure to the November ballot that addresses loopholes created by Prop 47. The measure, called The Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act, would allow those with multiple theft convictions to be charged with a felony for any theft, regardless of the dollar amount. In addition, the measure would allow prosecutors and law enforcement to charge offenders for the total value of property stolen across multiple thefts.
Last week, the California District Attorneys Associations (CDAA) announced that over 300,000 registered voters have signed the petition to place the measure on the ballot. The campaign has until April 23, 2024 to collect 546,651 signatures to qualify for the November 2024 ballot.
Opinions of reforming Prop 47 remain mixed amongst lawmakers in Sacramento. In January, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) proposed a new crime package that targets retail theft, but stops short of asking voters to reconsider Prop 47. The Governor also proposed an additional $373.5 million to be spent on efforts to combat organized retail theft. Last September, the Newsom Administration dedicated $267 million just in competitive grants to help local police departments tackle retail theft.
Members of the Legislature have echoed Newsom’s approach by introducing several pieces of legislation this session that address different aspects of Prop 47. Three bills have been introduced (AB 1787, AB 1772 and SB 923) that would increase penalties for repeat offenders, while one bill introduced in the Assembly (AB 1779) would allow for theft aggregation across multiple theft offenses. Any bill enacted by the Legislature that makes substantive changes to Prop 47 will have to be approved by the Governor and then approved by California voters in a new ballot.
Californians to Reduce Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft is leading the coalition organizing efforts to place the reform measure on the ballot in November. Its members include county sheriffs, district attorneys, retailers, retail property owners, business groups, elected officials, victim advocacy groups and law enforcement associations.
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