Last Updated on November 27, 2023

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) is implementing the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in an effort to curb the Golden State’s surging organized retail theft problem.

On November 22, he announced the operation as being a part of his 2021 “Real Public Safety Plan,” according to the release

CHP will increase its “presence in key retail districts across California.” At the same time, its specialized unit, the Organized Retail Crime Task Force (ORCTF), will provide additional “enforcement efforts through proactive and confidential law enforcement operations with allied agencies.”

Newsom’s anti-retail crime initiative is said to be a means of cracking down during the holiday season as retail crime throughout the state continues to climb, prompting merchants to close down or relocate.

smash grab california newsom
A Black Lives Matter looter robs a Target in Oakland, California. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

Target announced last September that it would be closing three stores due to the theft problem, according to CBS News. Its CEO, Brian Cornell, said the company is expected to lose more than $500 million more than last year, which was estimated to be between $700 and $800 million, making these new losses up to $1.2 billion.

CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee stated during the Zoom presser:

Organized retail crime remains an issue … From brazen smash-and-grabs to sophisticated theft rings, and organized retail crime … Working together with our partners and utilizing the CHP’s extensive statewide resources, we are cracking down and stopping unacceptable criminal activity.

The National Retail Federation noted in its latest security survey of about 177 retailers that it averaged a rate of “shrink” of 1.6% last year or $112.1 billion in losses, reported CBS News. The NRF prefaced that 65% of the shrink was due to external theft, including organized crime incidents.

CHP’s ORCTF regional teams in Southern California, the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento will now be working together in this operation, according to the report. Since 2019, CHP has had 2,200 investigations, totaling more than $33 million in stolen retail merchandise.

smash grab california newsom
California Highway Patrol Officer shakes hands with Black Lives Matter rioter. (Robyn Beck/Getty Images)

In the briefing, Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff Holly Francisco said the new task force will concentrate on large outlet malls while utilizing a visual presence, “where you’re going to see uniforms, walking in and around those areas,” adding that surveillance and undercover personnel will also be present.

The Highway Patrol’s role is just one part of what they call “Operation Smash and Grab,” a $267 million investment to 55 cities and counties to increase arrests and prosecutions relating to retail crime.

In addition, the sheriff will be sending as many as 70 deputies and detectives, typically assigned to violent crimes, to focus on retail theft until the end of the holiday, reported ABC7 News.

Still, others in law enforcement, including Sacramento Sheriff Jim Cooper, don’t believe that this is at all enough to combat the organized retail crime problem.

[embedded content]

“It really started with the change in the law in 2014 with Prop 47,” Cooper told Fox News. “The voters were duped into voting for that. It was called the ‘Safe Streets and Schools Act.’” 

Proposition 47 reduced many non-violent crimes to misdemeanors, including shoplifting under $950. It is widely believed to be a core cause of California’s organized retail theft problem.

San Francisco: Smash-and-Grab Robbers Steal Nearly $200,000 Worth of Camera Equipment Near Union Square

In 2020, Proposition 20 was on the ballot to reform the original law, increasing the penalties for serial thefts and organized retail crime; however, it received a mere 38% of the vote, according to Ballotpedia.

Calmatters.org states that Newsom voted against Prop 20, along with the progressive nonprofit ACLU and the California Teachers Association; meanwhile, the proponent was, unsurprisingly, the California Retailers Association.

Asian-Owned Jewelry Store Employees Fend Off Smash & Grab Robbers in California