California’s big retail theft investment: is it working?

$267 million was distributed to multiple California agencies to combat retail theft as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Organized Retail Theft Prevention Grant Program.

CALIFORNIA, USA — It’s been nearly five months since Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $267 million investment into the state’s efforts to fight retail theft. Dozens of law enforcement agencies and district attorney’s offices received a portion of the money, and now, they’re providing updates on how they used that money.

Back in October, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the Organized Retail Theft Prevention Grant Program. With the growing problems at places like Roseville Galleria, Placer County District Attorney Morgan Gire’s office received $2,047,011 to build a specialized team.

“A full time dedicated organized retail theft prosecutor, a district attorney investigator, a sworn law enforcement officer to assist in those investigations and a crime analyst that will help work with our local law enforcement agencies,” said Gire.

Over in Sacramento County, the sheriff’s office got $9,424,987. So far, it’s been used to conduct major operations like ‘Bad Elf’ during the 2023 holiday season, leading to hundreds of arrests.

“We can attribute 300+ people actually cited and/or arrested as a direct result of this retail theft grant,” said Sgt. Amar Gandhi, spokesperson for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.

In Modesto, police got $6,003,419 over the course of three years.

“That goes for operations to combat vehicle theft, it also went to hiring a new employee who focuses our civilian investigator. That’s all she does, is focus on organized retail theft,” said. Lt. Kalani Souza, spokesperson for Modesto police.

As a voice for retailers across the state, Rachel Michelin said seeing the money being used like this is what she has been advocating for.

“Our theory has always been, the more that these criminals understand there will be a consequence for the behavior, our hope is that it will deter the behavior from ever happening in the first place,” she said.

Last month, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office announced a brand new organized retail theft protection unit dedicated to investigate and prosecute retail theft crimes. Within that two month period, the DA’s office filed 35 cases, but it’s still unclear as to how many have been convicted in that time.

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