Rampant shoplifting in California’s capital has surpassed “crisis level,” according to the outspoken sheriff of Sacramento County.
“It is way beyond crisis level,” Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper told Fox News Digital in a Zoom interview Thursday about shoplifting.
Cooper took the internet by storm earlier this month when he said in an X post that Target leaders prevented deputies from thwarting shoplifting incidents despite the store requesting help to stymie rampant retail crime.
Cooper said his office recently worked with the massive retailer to carry out a shoplifting operation, but the plan apparently crumbled when Target leaders made a list of rules for where and how deputies and detectives could arrest the suspects.
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“At the briefing, we were told by their head of regional security that we could not contact suspects inside the store; we could not handcuff suspects in the store; and if we arrested someone, they wanted us to process them outside… behind the store… in the rain,” the sheriff said on X, adding earlier in his comment that he “can’t make this stuff up.”
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Cooper, a Democrat who previously served in the California State Assembly, told Fox News Digital there is a “disconnect” between retail workers who see crime issues play out in front of their eyes and request the sheriff’s office for assistance, and corporate leaders who want to avoid bad press.
“To be honest, at the corporate level, the board level, it’s about image. That’s really what matters and it’s sad,” Cooper said. “People have seen shoplifting going on in the stores with your family. You see it day in, day out and quite frankly, the public’s fed up. Right now, it’s polling about 80%. So the public is on the side [of], ‘Hey, it’s out of control. It’s time to do something.’ But for right now, the retailers, if they choose to, can really deal with it and do an initiative, but it has to go back to the voters.”
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A National Retail Security Survey published this year found retailers across the nation lost $112.1 billion in 2022 to retail theft. The figure is a jump from 2021’s losses of $93.9 billion and 2020’s $90.8 billion.
Cooper pinned blame on California’s Proposition 47, which voters passed in 2014 through a ballot initiative. Under the law, shoplifting charges regarding theft of $950 or less were lowered from felonies to misdemeanors.
“It really started with the change in law in 2014 with Prop 47, which was voted on by the voters, I should say, and the voters were duped into voting for that. It was called the safe streets and schools act,” Cooper said, noting the effects of Prop 47 were felt immediately in the state and has since evolved over the past nine years.
Cooper said it appears voters have not connected the dots between voting for Prop 47 nearly a decade ago and the crime they see today.
“I think they have no idea. God bless the voters. I love the voters. But it’s hard, you read the ballot and you’ve got a lot of items on there and you’ll [see] ‘The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act? What does that have to do with drugs and theft?’ And that’s really what it was. It decriminalized seven crimes, drug and theft crimes. And that’s why we find ourselves in the predicament we’re in today,” he said.
Retail theft in California appeared to spike in 2021, when smash-and-grab criminals were repeatedly caught on camera targeting expensive stores, such as Apple and Nordstrom. When asked if the crime wave of 2020 – when murders spiked by nearly 30% nationally – contributed to the spike, the sheriff said it was likely a combination of factors.
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“I think a combination of everything, obviously with the laws of Prop 47, the lax laws. I think lawlessness, people know, ‘Hey, there’s no accountability. I can go out and steal and not get in trouble.’ And these folks are so brazen, they’re not running out of stores. They’re walking out with a shopping cart full of items. And most of the big box retailers, and that’s what we’re talking about, now have a policy where ‘Hey, don’t confront anybody, just let them go,’ a nonconfrontation policy, so that adds fuel to the fire,” he said.
The CEO of the California Retailers Association, Rachel Michelin, has taken issue with the sheriff publicly calling out Target for not working with his office, telling Fox News Digital that the sheriff should instead have conversations with local leaders on how to address the crimes.
“I just believe that a better tactic to really try to solve problems is to sit down and have conversations and not hash it out on social media,” Michelin told Fox News Digital in a phone interview last week. “That’s always been my philosophy. It’s worked for me in the past.”
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She pointed to how her office “worked behind the scenes” with the governor’s office to roll out a massive $300 million initiative to combat organized retail crimes across the state, which included roughly $9 million to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.
“That never would have happened had we been passionate and yelling and screaming via social media. I just focused on solving the problem. And I’m gonna continue to do that,” she said.
Michelin said she understands and shares the sheriff’s concerns with shoplifting crimes, and argued that Prop 47 should be altered via a vote to allow for more accountability of thieves.
“I completely understand and relate it to his frustration with the issue. I totally get it. I share it. I think ultimately we both have the same goals, which is we want a safe shopping experience for our customers, we want a safe work environment for our employees. But the challenge is that, you know, it’s a very nuanced issue,” she said, explaining California is a “progressive state” where some residents support Prop 47.
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When asked about the CEO’s recent comments, the sheriff told Fox News Digital that he’s taken to social media because he’s already tried to hold conversations with local leaders on cracking down on thieves.
“I’ve been talking to these folks for eight years, long before she came on the scene. [Michelin] hasn’t even been there for more than a couple years now. Those conversations have been had. I tried to tap into the legislature on multiple bills. It has to get changed by the voters. I’m not sure what part of that she didn’t understand, but it has to go back to the voters and the retailers are complicit in this. That’s why it’s out of control. They’re complicit,” he said.
As big box stores bleed revenue from stolen items and closing stores in crime-riddled areas, the sheriff said consumers are filling in the financial gaps by paying “sky high” costs at the cash register.
“Those costs are being passed on to us, the consumer, in higher prices. We see it day in and day out… [Big retailers are] still surviving,” he said.
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The sheriff said he has no intention to stop posting publicly on the shoplifting issues, noting the shoppers and the public have been favorable toward his X posts.
“Absolutely, and the public wholeheartedly supports it,” he said.
Source: Fox News