Gov. Newsom Signs Bill to Fight Organized Retail Theft

LONG BEACH – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed legislation into law with a goal of stopping “ORT” (Organized retail theft) that has seen a rampant rise recently in California.

AB 331 by Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (D-Los Angeles), extends the sunset date of the crime of organized retail theft, as well as the California Highway Patrol Organized Retail Crime Task Force, to January 1, 2026.  “Among the most basic needs for all Californians is to feel safe at home, at the park, or walking to school,” said Governor Newsom. “As we pursue nation-leading criminal justice reforms – all with an eye to making our communities safer – a more holistic approach is called for. We must invest in public safety while, at the same time, tackling the root causes of these increases,” Newsom said at a news conference in Long Beach.

CHP’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force strategically deploys regional teams of investigators who specialize in the investigation of organized retail crime and partners with local law enforcement agencies and district attorneys to identify and prosecute organized retail theft. Over the past three years, the Task Force has been a part of 668 investigations resulting in 252 arrests and the recovery of over $16.3 billion in stolen merchandise.

Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) released the following statement in response to Newsom’s efforts to address rising crime and reduce retail theft:  “Polling must show voters are concerned about crime because up until today’s announcement, Newsom has been the champion of the ‘criminal first agenda’ that put our communities at risk in the first place. Welcome to Newsom’s California where thieves thrive and law-abiding families and businesses are put at risk.”

From the California Retailers Association:

California Retailers Association President and CEO Rachel Michelin issued the following statement after joining Governor Gavin Newsom in this morning’s press conference addressing the growing problem of Organized Retail Crime.  “CRA applauds Governor Gavin Newsom for working with the California Retailers Association in extending the state’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force for years to come with his signing of AB 331 this morning and recent ORC budget appropriation.
The CRA team engaged the Governor’s office directly on this issue and, not only did we secure funding to keep the task force operational, but we were also able to secure additional money for the Department of Justice specially for ORC. In addition, our sponsored bill, AB 331, which continues the ORC statue, passed both houses with NO OPPOSITION and was signed into law this morning by the Governor.
CRA also applauds the State Legislature for including $5.5 million dollars in the State budget to fund the Taskforce. We thank the Newsom Administration for their partnership in ensuring this important funding was included in the budget that prioritizes the protection of retail employees and customers from this growing criminal activity.
ORC is a growing problem, not only for businesses, but our communities as California leads the nation in reports of serial theft. ORC fosters a host of illegal activity, including the recruitment of vulnerable Californians such as youth, homeless and others into sophisticated theft crime networks that frequently use their proceeds to finance other illegal activity including drug smuggling and human trafficking.
The Task Force was set to expire on July 1 and did not have funding in place. Thanks to the collaboration of the California Retailer Association and its partners and support of Governor Newsom and state legislators, the valuable work of the Task Force will continue, which has resulted in breaking up sophisticated crime rings leading to the recovery of millions of dollars in stolen goods.