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Smash-and-Grab theft rises around California

Local and national business owners pay the price

On Nov. 5, 2014, Prop 47 was a ballot measure passed by California voters. This law established some non-violent property crimes and smaller drug possession crimes as misdemeanors. If the value of theft or damage does not exceed $950, the crime is charged as a misdemeanor. “Smash-and-grabs” (or stealing from businesses) are on the continued rise in the state, affecting local businesses in Fresno as well as national chains.

A new push to reform Prop 47 called The Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act is gathering signatures to add this measure to the upcoming November election. Five hundred thousand signature have already been collected with 60,000 more needed by April. This new measure has three plans:

  1. Restore accountability for repeat theft offenders
  2. Incentivize those who possess hard drugs to receive treatment and face stricter punishment
  3. Address the fentanyl crisis

If you would like to add your name to the measure, visit the petition.

The main focus of  the 2014 Prop 47 was to reduce the overuse of prison sentences and use money from prison budgets to improve community-based safety programs. Many people had past crimes reduced to a misdemeanor to help with unnecessary punishment. Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama recognizes an uphill battle in combating the effects of Prop 47. 

“Anytime you remove accountability for bad and illegal behavior, certain people will take advantage of that,” Balderrama said. “There is profit in stealing, and Prop 47 has proven that crime does pay. As residents of California we must demand better from our legislators.”

With this being passed, smash-and-grabs have become a popular issue and the California Retailers Association is struggling to combat retail theft. Robbery and theft swell throughout the nation and have even become a trend on social media. Social media users will post videos of thieves running through stores with bags of clothes and shoe boxes in their hands.

The problem has gotten so severe that the state lawmakers created a new select committee to solely focus on retail theft.  The committee is made up of bipartisan members all across the state, mostly those whose counties have been heavily impacted by smash and grabs. Smash and grabs are happening in a variety of different stores; from ice cream shops to Target, to Louis Vuitton, and the circumstances are only worsening. Businesses are struggling with smash and grab considering over $100 billion is estimated to be stolen each year.

Retail theft soars across the nation as perpetrators get away with crimes under protection of Prop 47. (The Morning Calm)

Many business owners have hired extra security to make sure their business isn’t the next victim of a smash-and-grab. Although hiring security is becoming necessary, it can be pricey and costs about $1,000 per day.

Carla Osborn is a jewelry and accessories business owner in Fresno, California and parent of Fresno Christian Schools students. She opened her store almost two years ago in River Park, a place where frequent smash-and-grabs occur. Due to all the robberies, River Park has increased their security to help give peace and comfort to store owners and customers.

“My store hasn’t had any major issues or attempted robberies,” said Osborn. “Fortunately, we have security at River Park all the time, and it’s just two stores down from my store which helps me feel more secure about the safety of my store.”

Consumers are frustrated at the impact as shopping for everyday products are now locked behind security shelves. The shopping experience has officially become more complicated with employees constantly being asked to unlock doors. While shopping with his own family CA Governor Gavin Newsom saw first hand retail theft with no security response at Target and was then blamed for it by the unaware teller.

Witnessing retail theft is becoming a more common occurence. One student shares his experience.

“I saw a few guys with big trash bags run inside the Apple Store and grab all the phones and electronics off the shelves,” Sophomore Garret Reed said. “That was it, they removed everything from the shelves, walked out, and got in their car and left. Security did nothing and there’s not much force they can use to stop the thieves, even though they are trying to.”

Not only is security taking precautions to help fight off thieves, Fresno PD, Clovis PD, Fresno County DA, and Fresno County Probation are receiving $23 million in three years to help with theft. Chief Balderrama has plans to help reduce smash and grabs by 15 percent each year for the next three years with his portion from a state grant.

The $23M is not only for Fresno PD, it is also for Clovis PD, Fresno County DA, and Fresno County Probation,” Balderrama said. “Fresno PD will get about $16M which will pay for 25 police positions, technology, and equipment to help combat organized retail theft. The funding will be used over three years and will help pay for our Organized Retail Theft task force which is focused on reducing smash and grabs, as well as auto theft, and catalytic converter theft.’’

The goal for the new task force team is to decrease the number of smash-and-grabs and help restore safe shopping for local consumers. They hope to identify and arrest groups participating in organized crime who are the perpetrators of smash-and-grabs to help make the community safer. 

To read more from The Feather visit Serve Day encourages local partnership or The Feather returns to New York 2024: Day 1

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About the Contributor
Julianna Briggs
Julianna Briggs, Journalist
Julianna Briggs, ‘26, known as Lala, is a first-year journalist and videographer for The Feather. Briggs aspires to improve her writing skills, video editing, time management, and teamwork. She is excited that The Feather will help prepare her for college and act as the building block for more advanced classes in the future. Briggs plays as a defender on the school volleyball and basketball teams.
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