Fight against smash-and-grabs: Newsom introduces new law enforcement efforts



SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Stung by recent armed robberies that have made headlines, California Governor Gavin Newsom has said he will seek more than $ 300 million in public funding over three years to bolster the law enforcement efforts to tackle retail theft.

“The issue of crime and violence is at the forefront not only in the state of California but across the United States, highlighted recently by some large scale retail theft operations,” he said. Newsom said on Friday.

He added that “these crowds of organized retailers… (have) a profound impact on our sense of security here in this state, this region and, as I note, this country. “

Newsom has proposed to give $ 255 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies to put more police in stores to deter organized retail crime over the next three years.

An additional $ 30 million over three years in the proposed budget that it sends to lawmakers next month will go to county district attorneys to support prosecutions against auto theft and retail offenses.

An additional $ 18 million over three years would be spent on creating a new “special organized robbery unit” under the leadership of the state attorney general, with investigators and prosecutors dedicated to prosecuting leaders of the organized crime.

Retailers in California and other cities in the United States, including Chicago and Minneapolis, have recently fallen victim to large-scale thefts when groups of people show up in groups for mass shoplifting or for going into stores and breaking and grabbing storefronts.

Shoplifters and retail thieves are also a growing problem for California retailers, who have said criminals face little to no consequences after their capture.

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

He championed a voter-approved initiative in 2014 that reduced some thefts from misdemeanors, although prosecutors said it left them without enough legal tools.

Newsom on Friday offered an additional $ 20 million to help small businesses victims of armed robberies.

He also plans to transform an existing retail theft task force into a permanent “smash and grab law enforcement unit”.

Working as part of the task force, the California Highway Patrol’s “enforcement fleets” would coordinate with local law enforcement agencies to target organized retail and auto thefts in the California area. San Francisco Bay, Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Auto theft had become a particularly embarrassing problem in the bay area, keep tourists away from certain high crime areas.

Newsom said he would also work with state lawmakers to improve road camera technology to help solve crimes and, as a result, strengthen “real-time data” highway patrols.

He pointed out that long-term crime rates in California have come down, but said California and other U.S. states have recently seen an increase in organized retail thefts and violent crimes, including those involving firearms.

Homicides in California jumped 31% last year, while Oakland, a politically progressive country, recently reversed course on police funding amid an increase in homicides and gun violence. And on Friday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency to tackle crime in one of the city’s poorest and most drug-infested neighborhoods.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown, a fellow Democrat who has championed relief from long criminal sentences, said in a television interview that there has to be a carrot and stick approach that includes some punishment for lower level crimes.

Newsom proposed what he called the “largest gun buyback program in the United States” – $ 25 million in matching grants to local law enforcement agencies to collect guns at fire and increase awareness of gun violence.

He also pledged additional, but unspecified, funding for the California Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis.

He reiterated the plan he announced last weekend to allow individuals to sue those who manufacture, sell or distribute illegal assault weapons and “ghost weapons”, kits or parts of ghost weapons that cannot be found. Texas uses a similar method to try to restrict abortions.

“If a law (in Texas) is to be used to endanger women’s lives, 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 combat the importation of illegal drugs – particularly fentanyl entering the state from Mexico – by targeting transnational criminal organizations.

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

“Californians have had enough,” said Jennifer Barrera, president and CEO of the chamber.

Newsom was joined by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley – who has warned that retail thieves are “terrorizing our communities” – and by Attorney General Rob Bonta, who was appointed by Newsom to this position to fill a vacant position.

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

Earlier this week, Newsom pledged that its January budget will offer at least $ 100 million in local grants to dispose of trash and beautify public spaces associated with homelessness, another important campaign theme.

The proposed spending to tackle crime and clean up neighborhoods represent fractions of the state’s annual operating budget, which this year exceeds $ 260 billion and is expected to show a surplus of at least $ 31 billion next year. .

Republican Senate Leader Scott Wilk said Democrats are “finally waking up” to “soft crime policies” which he said have “turned this once majestic state into a sanctuary for criminals.”

While opponents believe Democrats are vulnerable on these issues, Newsom in September easily prevailed over an effort to recall him midway through.

Rescue California, one of the groups behind the failed recall, on Thursday called on Newsom to call a special legislative session to target the robberies that the group said “plague California.” Members also urged Newsom to support the overturning of the 2014 ballot measure that eased criminal penalties for theft and drug-related offenses.

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