Much attention has been brought recently to the problem of organized retail theft. Images of groups of criminals entering open businesses and removing large amounts of merchandise while not being confronted by store employees or security guards have raised concern about increasingly lawless behavior.
Add to that the “flash mob”- style takeovers of businesses and smash-and-grab burglaries, and you are left with the impression that crime is out of control.
There are those who think retail companies can easily absorb these losses and that there are no real victims of these retail crimes. Think again. We’re all victims of these brazen acts.
The retailers do not simply absorb the cost of theft. Instead, they have no choice but to raise prices to compensate for their losses caused by these criminal acts. We all pay a price, and it disproportionately affects those among us who can least afford it.
In Ventura County, we aggressively pursue people who target our communities with these types of crimes. Two of the largest retail centers in Ventura County are in cities policed by the sheriff’s office: the Camarillo Premium Outlets and The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks.
Our communities have not been immune to this lawless behavior, but we have found that very little of it is committed by local criminals. Most of the highly mobile crews originate in Los Angeles or the Bay Area.
The groups of people who commit these crimes travel throughout California targeting retail centers in many different jurisdictions, including ours.
For this reason, it’s extremely important for district attorneys to have the tools to consolidate cases from multiple counties to properly prosecute criminals for the crimes they commit.
Recently, our deputies arrested several crews that were responsible for multiple organized retail thefts across cities and counties throughout the state. We tried to consolidate those cases locally, only to learn that a law, which previously allowed prosecutors to charge suspects with multiple cases across jurisdictional lines, had expired.
There are efforts underway to reinstate that law, thanks to Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, who is bringing forward a new law to close that loophole.
Our deputies work tirelessly alongside prosecutors to bring these perpetrators to justice. Making arrests only to have suspects quickly released from jail and not charged, or only charged with a fraction of their actual crimes because of this loophole, is not an option.
I am proud of our strong partnership with Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko and his dedicated prosecutors, as we focus our collective resources on this widespread problem.
However, in order to improve our impact and level of success, it is imperative that we reinstate the law allowing district attorneys the authority to consolidate cases across jurisdictional boundaries.
To help end this lawless behavior, residents need to voice their support to get this vital legislation passed.
I urge you to call Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin’s office at (805) 482-1904 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to support this effort.
Bill Ayub is sheriff of Ventura County.