Areas of Southern California with high-end stores have seen a significant increase in organized and brazen thefts carried out by groups of people in recent years. Whether it’s in Beverly Hills or the upscale shopping areas of Newport Beach or other cities, retailers have lost millions of dollars in merchandise.
The thefts often involve jewelry stores, but clothing stores and any retailer with expensive and/or sought-after items can be targets. Some theft rings have expanded into discount, sporting goods, electronics and home improvement stores. Most of the stolen items end up for sale in online marketplaces.
What is organized retail theft?
Organized retail theft doesn’t involve a single person or even a few people scoping out a store and then going in and robbing it. Organized retail theft is typically carried out by criminal networks that plan their actions in advance. Employees and customers are left traumatized – and in some cases injured and even killed – in the incidents, which are carried out in the open.
California authorities have taken notice of it – and taken action. California Attorney General Bonta and the California Department of Justice are collaborating and sharing information on these rings with other state and local law enforcement agencies. They’re working to shut down the marketplaces where they make their money by selling the stolen goods and prosecuting those involved to the fullest extent possible.
Shoplifting charges are often misdemeanors
Organized retail theft is not treated the same way that your basic shoplifting offense is handled. Under California law, the offense of shoplifting (taking merchandise valued at up to $950) is a misdemeanor unless a person has prior convictions for certain other crimes. While you don’t want a shoplifting offense on your criminal record, you most certainly don’t want to be accused of organized retail theft – especially if someone ended up injured or dead.
If someone happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and got arrested because they appeared to be with a group carrying out a planned theft or they took advantage of the chaos going on around them to grab something, it’s possible to be mistakenly arrested and charged in connection with one of these brazen thefts. Buying stolen items can also potentially lead to arrest.
Whatever the situation, if you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it’s smart to seek experienced legal guidance as soon as possible.