A bill being debated in the California Legislature has shocked and angered business owners in the state who say that if it becomes law, it will effectively make it open season for shoplifters.
The most controversial part of the bill would prohibit employers from asking store employees to confront shoplifters. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Dave Cortese, insists that this will keep employees safe, because when they try to stop thieves, “people get hurt and oftentimes killed that way.”
“What we’re saying in the bill is it’s not OK for an employer to take a rank-and-file worker, somebody whose job is really something else … and say, ‘Hey, if there’s an intruder, we’re going to deputize you. You’ll be the one to intervene,’” Cortese said.
But while supporters say this measure will make stores safer for employees, business owners say its real effect will be to embolden shoplifters.
Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association, said SB 553 is over the top. “This bill goes way too far. … I think it will open the doors even wider for people to come in and steal from our stores,” she told KTVU.
“It says no employee can approach someone who’s shoplifting, so even if someone is trained on how to deter someone from doing that, now they’re not allowed to approach someone. … We are opening up the doors to allow people to just walk into stores, steal and walk out,” she added.
Cortese denies all that.
“The bill does not prohibit employees from stopping theft. It does prevent employers from asking non-security personnel to confront a person involved in criminal activity,” he said, according to Newsweek.
“We don’t want rank-and-file employees to be forced to place themselves in harm’s way.” Workplace violence is nothing to scoff at, of course.
But retailers say that “shrinkage” — the euphemism they use to describe shoplifting — has exploded across the country. A 2022 survey by the National Retail Federation found that retailers are losing almost $100 billion a year to theft, Newsweek reported.
While in the ideal situation, employees would be able to call store security to stop theft, the truth is shoplifters usually give workers little time to call in reinforcements.
Critics of SB 553 are probably right that, regardless of the nuances of the proposed law, its message to shoplifters is that they likely will not be prevented from robbing stores blind.
It’s all just another example of soft-on-crime California Democrats pandering to the criminal class and forsaking law and order, not to mention turning their backs on employers from mom-and-pop stores all the way to the biggest corporations.