California issues $267 million in grants to combat epidemic of retail and other thefts

‘Enough with these brazen smash-and-grabs,’ said Gov. Gavin Newsom

State grants totaling more than $267 million will be distributed to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in 51 cities and counties to aid in the prosecution of blatant retail, motor vehicle, catalytic converter, and cargo thefts.

In the midst of an epidemic of such thefts, many of which are organized on social media and carried out by flash mobs, the California Board of State and Community Corrections unanimously approved Gov. Gavin Newsom’s allocation request on Thursday, Sept. 14.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and Los Angeles Police Department are among the recipients of funds that will begin flowing next month. Each will receive more than $15 million.

Furthermore, the district attorneys’ offices in Orange and Riverside counties each received $2 million to dedicate at least one prosecutor solely to organized retail theft cases.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which has been at the center of some of California’s most high-profile smash-and-grabs, did not apply for a portion of the grant funds available to prosecutors.

“This grant was specifically named for law enforcement agencies to apply for and receive funding, not local prosecutors’ offices,” said the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in an email. “We are pleased to announce that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will receive a portion of these funds.” We look forward to continuing our partnership with them and the Los Angeles Organized Retail Theft Task Force on this important issue.”

District Attorney George Gascón’s failure to seek a grant is perplexing, according to Eric Siddall, vice president of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys.

“George Gascón’s failure to secure additional resources from the state to combat smash-and-grab robberies is just another example of his negligence and inability to lead,” said Siddall, who is running to replace Gascón in 2024. “As criminals commit these heinous robberies, the district attorney’s office should use every tool at its disposal to put a stop to these crimes.” Gascón failed to appear yet again. All Angelenos were let down by his incompetence.”

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer expressed gratitude to the state for recognizing the devastation that smash-and-grab thefts have on retailers, law enforcement, and the community at large.

“These are not crimes of opportunity. “These are calculated and planned attacks by organized criminals who use loopholes in California’s laws to steal billions of dollars in goods from retailers every year,” Spitzer said in a statement. “Our judges and our legislature have failed us by ensuring that there are no consequences for committing crimes – which is why people with five, six, and nine strikes are breaking into our homes and businesses rather than serving time behind bars.”

“The criminals are getting a strong message — the reward is far greater than the risk, and crime literally pays in California.”

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office will use grant funds to establish a specialized prosecution unit and to invest in technology to track patterns and analyze data across multiple devices used by organized retail thieves.

Southern California businesses have been plagued by a spate of brazen smash-and-grab heists in recent months.

Among the most recent was a larceny at a Rite Aid in Brea on Wednesday evening committed by two men and a woman who filled multiple trash bags with vitamins, medicines, and health supplements before threatening an employee with pepper spray and fleeing, according to police.

The Los Angeles Police Department will use grant funds to implement Project Blue Light, which aims to improve investigations and increase cooperation with business owners and communities, in an effort to combat such crimes. A request for more specific information about the project was not immediately responded to by LAPD officials.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department intends to use its grant funds to establish a fully staffed and equipped investigative unit dedicated to organized retail theft, cargo theft, and automobile and auto accessory theft.

Furthermore, grant funds will be used by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to establish a real-time operations center, which will raise awareness by encouraging residents to take action to reduce the opportunity for thieves.

In addition, the OCSD intends to install cameras on the county’s busiest roads in order to analyze theft patterns and to implement a catalytic converter etching program.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Jurupa Valley Station, as well as police departments in Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Brea, Garden Grove, Costa Mesa, and Irvine, received grants ranging from $1 million to $6.1 million from the Board of State and Community Corrections.

According to Newsom, the grant funds will provide law enforcement agencies with additional resources to lock up criminal suspects.

“California is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to crack down on organized crime and support local law enforcement,” he stated in a statement. “Enough with the brazen smash-and-grabs — we’re ensuring law enforcement has the resources they need to take down these criminals.”

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