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Gov. Newsom signs bill to help fight retail theft during Southern California visit

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that aims to curb organized retail theft across the state on Wednesday, July 21, during a visit to Long Beach where he also met with local mayors and police chiefs.

The signing of Assembly Bill 331, which bolsters the California Highway Patrol’s property-crimes task force, is among several recent efforts to address an uptick in crime across California, Newsom said during a press conference on Long Beach’s Retro Row, a small business district on Fourth Street.

The bill, which passed 68-0 in the state’s Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate, gives the CHP more leeway in forming such task forces.

“(There) are organized (criminal) efforts, and we want to go after those rings, ” Newsom said of retail theft. “We want to go after those organized teams of folks that are connected not just within communities, but across the state.”

The CHP’s top cop agreed.

“Organized crime retail theft has become a $30 billion criminal industry that often uses the illicit proceeds that they get from that to fund other crimes,” CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray said. “Some of the other crimes that those monies are used for are vehicle theft, identity theft, human trafficking and narcotics trafficking.”

Since the task force began in 2019, there have been 668 investigations, with 252 arrests and more than $16.3 million in of stolen merchandise recovered, she said.

In one instance, a couple of months ago, the CHP task force busted a suspected grocery-store theft ring that had roughly $1 million in stolen goods stashed at a home in Garden Grove, authorities said.

Newsom said there have been other investments in preventing violent crime and in solving other problems, including $10.4 million into a Gun Violence Reduction Program, $12 billion into homeless housing and services, and $4 billion into behavioral-health services for young people.

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