California Governor Signs Legislation Targeting Organized Retail Crime

California Governor Gavin Newsom signs ORC legislation AB 331
California Governor Gavin Newsom signs ORC legislation AB 331. Photo courtesy of the CA Governors Office

Gavin Newsom signed legislation on July 21 to improve the California’s ability to stop organized retail crime (ORC). The bill labeled AB 331 extends the sunset date of the crime of organized retail theft, as well as the California Highway Patrol (CHP) 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.”

Jason Brewer
Jason Brewer

In a response to the signing, Buy Safe America Coalition spokesperson Jason Brewer said, “We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing AB 331. Law enforcement is critical in the fight against criminal rings targeting local retailers, and the task force is an important component in coordinating efforts between retailers and local law enforcement.”

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However, Brewer noted that more needs to be done to address the ease with which criminals can quickly and anonymously sell stolen goods online. “We need to address the root cause of this recent spike in criminal activity targeting local retailers, and that is the ease with which criminals can hide behind screennames and fake business accounts to sell stolen goods on platforms like Amazon, Etsy, eBay and Facebook Marketplace. These platforms have allowed criminal networks to create a business model for selling stolen goods, and it’s put a target on the back of local retailers and their employees,” said Brewer.

California’s ORC Task Force

CHP’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force strategically deploys regional teams of investigators who specialize in the investigation of ORC 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 million in stolen merchandise.

The Organized Retail Crime Task Force works collaboratively with local law enforcement agencies, as well as other crime task forces throughout the state, to deliver investigative leadership and support with the aim of reducing retail crime in California. Specifically, the task force will:

  • Collaborate with allied law enforcement agencies and district attorneys to identify and prosecute organized theft rings, recover lost merchandise, and reduce associated crime.
  • Collaborate with the retail industry to reduce incidents of theft and strengthen locational safety for shoppers.
  • Launch a web-based portal for the public and California retailers to report tips directly to the CHP.
  • Continue to partner with allied agencies to offer specialized training and general law enforcement assistance related to auto theft and organized retail crimes.

In addition to the task force, the California Highway Patrol will proactively monitor crime trends using the best available real-time data, and in response, will strategically deploy patrols, regional investigative teams, multi-agency task forces (local and federal), state security program and K-9 officers.

To read more about these initiatives, visit the Governor’s website.