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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

California governor ramps up efforts to tackle looting

by Don Thompson

SACRAMENTO — Shocked by the recent spate of robberies and robberies that have hit the headlines, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that he will increase state funding over three years to boost law enforcement efforts to combat retail theft. Will demand more than $300 million.

“The issue of crime and violence is at the top not only in the state of California but across the United States, which has recently been highlighted by some high-profile retail theft operations,” Newsom said.

He added that “the organized retail mob … (has) had a profound effect on our sense of security in this state, this region and, as I noted, this country.”

Newsom proposed a $255 million grant to local law enforcement agencies over the next three years to put more police on stores to prevent organized retail crime.

An additional $30 million over three years in a proposed budget to be sent to lawmakers next month will go to county district attorneys to support prosecutions for crimes related to retail and auto theft.

Another $18 million over three years will go to creating a new “organized burglary special unit” under the state attorney general, with investigators and prosecutors dedicated to pursuing organized crime gangs.

Retailers in California and surrounding cities in the US, including Chicago and Minneapolis, have recently been victims of mass thefts, when groups of people show up in groups or enter stores for mass shoplifting incidents. And break and grab performance cases.

Sole shoppers and retail thieves have also been a growing problem for California retailers, who have said criminals face no consequences once caught.

Earlier this month, Newsom criticized local prosecutors for not doing enough to crack down on criminals using existing state laws.

He defended a voter-approved 2014 initiative that reduced some thefts from felonies to misdemeanors, though prosecutors said it left him without adequate legal tools.

Newsom on Friday offered another $20 million to help small businesses that have been robbed and robbed.

They also plan to transform the existing Retail Theft Task Force into a permanent “Smash and Grab Enforcement Unit”.

Working under the task force, the California Highway Patrol “Enforcement Fleet” coordinates with local law enforcement departments to target organized retail and auto thefts in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles and San Diego areas. Will do

Auto theft had become a particularly troubling problem in the Bay Area, driving tourists away from some high crime areas.

Newsom said he would also work with state lawmakers to improve highway camera technology to help solve crimes, and promote highway patrols “based on real-time data.”

He stressed that the long-term crime rate in California has decreased, but noted that California and other US states have recently experienced an increase in organized retail theft and violent crimes, including firearms.

Murders in California jumped 31% last year, while politically progressive Oakland recently reversed course on police defenses due to a rise in homicides and gun violence. And on Friday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency to combat crime in the city’s poorest and most drug-ridden neighborhoods.

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Former Governor Jerry Brown, a fellow Democrat who supported the easing of longer criminal sentences, said in a television interview that there is a need for a carrot-and-stick approach that includes some punishment for lower-level crimes.

Newsom proposed what he called “the largest gun buyback program in America”—$25 million to match grants to local law enforcement agencies to collect guns and raise awareness of gun violence.

He also promised more but unspecified additional funding for California’s Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis.

He reiterated the plan he announced last weekend to allow private citizens to prosecute people who make, sell or distribute illegal assault weapons and unattended “ghost guns,” ghost gun kits or parts. We do. Texas uses a similar method to try to restrict abortion.

“If a law (in Texas) is being used to put women’s lives at risk, we will use that law to protect people’s lives,” Newsom said.

Finally, Newsom offered $20 million to support the California National Guard’s efforts to fight the importation of illegal drugs — specifically fentanyl — flowing into the state from Mexico by targeting international criminal organizations.

The proposal to tackle retail theft was welcomed by the leaders of the California Retailers Association and the California Chamber of Commerce.

“California has had enough,” said Jennifer Barrera, the chamber’s president and CEO.

Newsom was accompanied by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley – who warned retail thieves were “terrorizing our communities” – and Attorney General Rob Bonta, who was hired by Newsom to fill a vacancy. it was done.

Newsom and Bonta are both Democrats seeking re-election next year, and Republicans are already making crime a campaign issue.

Newsom promised earlier this week that his January budget would propose at least $100 million in local grants to help remove trash and beautify public spaces associated with the homeless, another important campaign theme.

Proposed spending to combat crime and clean up neighborhoods represents portions of the state’s annual operating budget, which exceeds $260 billion this year and is projected to have a surplus of at least $31 billion next year.

Senate Republican leader Scott Wilk said Democrats are “finally waking up” to “soft-on-crime policies” that he said have “turned this one princely state into a sanctuary for criminals.”

While opponents believe Democrats are weak on the issues, in September Newsom easily won over an attempt to recall them in the midterm.

Rescue California, one of the groups promoting the failed recall, called on Newsom on Thursday to convene a special legislative session to target smash-and-grab piracy, which the group said was “harming California”. Is.” Members also urged Newsom to support the repeal of the 2014 ballot measure that reduced criminal penalties for theft and drug offenses.

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