California Increases Efforts to Combat Organized Retail Theft Ahead of Busy Holiday Shopping Season

California Highway Patrol to saturate patrols at shopping centers throughout the state

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom has increased efforts statewide to tackle organized retail theft ahead of the holiday shopping season. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) Organized Retail Crime Task Force (ORCTF) is increasing their presence at shopping centers throughout the state and working with local law enforcement agencies to make arrests and heighten visibility.

“Californians deserve to feel safe especially as they head to stores this holiday season,” said Governor Newsom. “We’ve doubled down on our efforts to combat crime with millions of dollars to deter, arrest and successfully prosecute criminals involved in organized retail theft. This year, shopping centers across California will see saturated patrols as CHP regional teams work with local law enforcement agencies to help make arrests and recover stolen merchandise.”

Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 331 by Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (D-Los Angeles) to extend and expand the CHP’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force (ORCTF). The CHP’s ORCTF regional teams collaborate with local law enforcement agencies and retailers to proactively address organized retail theft. Since the inception of the task force, the CHP has been involved in 1,296 investigations, the arrest of 645 suspects, and the recovery of 271,697 items of stolen retail merchandise valued at nearly $26 million.

“The CHP is dedicated to ensuring everyone is safe during this holiday shopping season,” said Commissioner Amanda Ray. “Through the joint efforts of our Organized Retail Crime Task Force and public safety partners, we are working hard to combat organized retail crime and deter organized theft rings.”

CHP Organized Retail Crime Task Force investigators intercepted a shipment of stolen Lululemon products shipped from various places throughout the country, including Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The 1,861 items were worth approximately $200,000. The merchandise was returned to Lululemon (June 2022).

Governor Gavin Newsom prioritized combating organized retail theft:

  • Signed AB 331, extending the ORCTF sunset provision and investing $6 million annually in 2022-23 through 2024-25 and ongoing resources to provide a total of $15 million annually to expand and make permanent this task force.
  • Investing $255 million in grants for local law enforcement over the next three years to combat retail theft.
  • Providing $30 million over the next three years to support District Attorneys, effectively prosecuting theft-related crimes.
  • Funding the creation of a new unit, in the Attorney General’s office, with specialized investigators and prosecutors focused specifically on organized theft rings.

In addition to law enforcement investigating retail theft, legislation signed this year by Governor Newsom will make it harder for individuals to sell stolen merchandise online. SB 301 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), requires high-volume third-party sellers of merchandise to provide additional information to protect consumers, to include requiring online marketplaces to comply with specified recordkeeping and security procedures. And AB 1700 by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego), requires the Attorney General’s Office to establish on its website a place for the public to report suspected stolen goods found on online marketplaces.  Both bills take effect on January 1, 2023.