Along with the holidays comes Christmas shopping and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is warning of an increase in retail thefts. In response, for example, the Mission Viejo Police Service has bolstered its counteractive efforts.
“Criminals look to capitalize on the busy holiday shopping season, and it is an issue for retailers across Orange County,” said Don Barnes, Orange County Sheriff-Coroner. “We encourage retailers to immediately report any theft and ask shoppers to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.”
Critics allege that Prop 47, which was approved by voters in 2014 to raise the dollar amount at which point stealing can be prosecuted as a felony from $400 to $950, has contributed to garden variety shoplifters becoming more organized.
“It’s terrible,” said Orange County attorney John Shu. “The first thing that retailers need to do is step up. They need to harden their facilities.”
For example, in Philadelphia, Neil Patel, a gas station franchise manager hired private security guards armed with assault rifles and shotguns to protect his customers and workers.
“We are tired from all of this nonsense…robbery, drug trafficking, racketeering, hanging around in gangs,” Patel told Fox News last week. “They are forcing us to hire high level security at the state level. I am fearful for the safety my employees as well as my nice neighborhood customers.”
Hardening facilities includes installing stronger doors as well as locks that provide business owners the opportunity to buzz in customers instead of allowing them to walk in.
“It’s a capital cost,” Shu told OrangeCountyLawyers.com. “It costs money. It’s important to harden your store because you don’t want anybody getting hurt whether it’s yourself, your employees, or your customer. You want to protect your inventory and your property.”
It’s also important to enhance security to avoid litigation.
“If, God forbid, a customer gets hurt or an employee gets hurt, they might sue you,” Shu said. “If you did what you reasonably should [to harden your store], they can still sue you, but it reduces significantly their chances of winning.”
In no uncertain terms, should a store owner tackle a suspected shoplifter. Instead, Shu recommends reporting the incident to police and filing a claim with the insurance company that’s providing the business owner with inventory coverage.
“That’s a real problem because if you attack the burglar or the robber, it’s possible you might get prosecuted for defending yourself or attacking him or her,” he said.
On a state level, an Organized Retail Crime Task Force (ORCTF) is increasing their presence at shopping centers with patrols and working with local law enforcement agencies to make arrests and heighten visibility.
Since the inception of the task force, the California Highway Patrol (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, according to data provided by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.
“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,” Newsom said in that same report online. “Californians deserve to feel safe especially as they head to stores this holiday season.”
Juliette Fairley covers legal topics for various publications including the Southern California Record, the Epoch Times and Pacer Monitor-News. Prior to discovering she had an ease and facility for law, Juliette lived in Orange County and Los Angeles where she pursued acting in television and film.