BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Joined by mayors and police chiefs from across California, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law legislation targeting retail thefts spiking across the Golden State.
The signing of Assembly Bill 131 will bolster the California Highway Patrol’s Property Crimes Task Force, one of the many recent efforts to combat crime in California.
The bill passed 68-0 in the state’s Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate, this gives the CHP more leeway in forming such task forces that focus on investigating organized retail theft.
“We’ve all seen the images of people rushing in, we’ve seen it all around the state of California,” said Gov. Newsom. “We want to go after those organized teams of folks that are connected not just within communities, but across the state.”
Since the task force was created in 2019, close to 700 investigations have led to more than 250 arrests. Tens of thousands of dollars of stolen property have also been recovered.
The signing of the bill is a bit of relief for Downtown Bakersfield business owners that survived the pandemic.
“We are out here working hard, trying to make a living,” said Jose Robles, owner of J & A Home Decor. “I had a woman lady stealing two little buckets that were part of a decoration and I told her ‘Mam those belong to us’ and she said, “no they belong to me you just let me be.”
This scene plays on and on too many times for businesses, often with repeated offenders.
“Depending on the group the money goes back to criminal groups,” said Sgt. Robert Price with the Bakersfield Police Department. “It is a reality that this isn’t someone stealing a loaf of bread for their family, this is their job.”
Governor Gavin Newsom also hopes that the new law will combat violent crimes associated with guns.
Newsom noted the efforts, like the approval of AB 131, as some of the efforts that have led to California taking 7th place for the state with the least gun-related deaths in 2017. In 1993, California was the 3rd state with the most gun-related deaths.
“We need to hold folks accountable,” said Newsom. “We need to do it in a thoughtful and judicious way, we are not going back to the way things were in the ’80s or the ’90s, at least not while I’m here.”