A few years ago, California passed one in a series of bills aimed at emptying the jails and prisons. Proposition 47 carried the disingenuous name of “the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act and its stated purpose was to keep non-violent offenders out of jail. To achieve this goal, the state decriminalized a number of lesser offenses, including retail theft. The law raised the value of the amount of merchandise someone could steal while still only being charged with a misdemeanor to nearly one thousand dollars.

To the great surprise of the government, people noticed this change and began taking advantage of it. They have now recorded multiple years of steadily increasing, organized robbery. These plots are known as “mass grab and dash” thefts and they generally involve large numbers of young people all entering a store at the same time, grabbing armfuls of merchandise and dashing back out to their vehicles and hitting the highway. Not only are robberies on the rise, but arrests and prosecutions are down. Who could possibly have predicted this? (CBS Sacramento)

After searching police reports and arrest records, CBS13 found that while the rate of these grab and dash crimes is on the rise, the rate of arrest is down. We turned to law enforcement and the retail industry for answers. Both blame a California law intended to make “neighborhoods safe.”

“It’s a boldness like we’re seeing never before and just a disregard for fellow human beings,” said Lieutenant Mark Donaldson, Vacaville PD.

He explained these crimes have evolved into more than just shoplifting. It’s organized retail theft and he says it’s happening across the state. Cities like Vacaville, with outlets and shopping centers located near major freeways, tend to be a target for these organized retail crime rings.

Nobody is seriously contesting the numbers. The local and state police organizations blame prop 47. FBI crime data supports the contention. Retail sales organizations have tracked this trend and agree.

This is a trend that’s been building in a number of blue states and now it seems that the petty crime chickens are coming home to roost. The fact is that there are always going to be a certain number of people who will be willing to break the law if they don’t feel the risk of significant punishment is too high. An understanding of this fundamental principle is why the “broken windows” policies enacted in New York City and other municipalities in the 90s were so effective. If you crack down on even smaller crimes, you lower crime rates overall.

Sadly, liberal elected officials paint a picture of racism and inequity behind effective law enforcement initiatives. The people committing these thefts frequently end up being young black and Hispanic robbers because they are more likely to come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This leads to laws like prop 47 hoping to keep more of them out of the “school to prison pipeline.”

But when you make it easier and less risky to steal larger amounts of goods, people will steal more merchandise. Did it really take a rocket scientist to figure this out? California basically incentivized crime and potential criminals answered the call. And since many of them were only getting the equivalent of a parking ticket for stealing 900 dollars worth of goods, police frequently didn’t expend much energy trying to catch them.

The ball’s in your court, California. Do you plan on doing something about this? Or will you essentially just legalize theft and tell the retailers that they’re on their own?