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Los Angeles Leads 2023 National Shoplifting Spree

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Los Angeles Leads 2023 National Shoplifting Spree

Police detain a suspect in a theft and assault case in downtown, Los Angeles in a file photo. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler

11/22/2023

Updated: 12/21/2023

Commentary
Shoplifting in Los Angeles spiked 109 percent in the first half of 2023, according to a new study by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ), “Shoplifting Trends: What You Need to Know.” The CCJ is a nonpartisan and independent think tank supported by grants from philanthropies. That was the highest rise of any city, with Dallas in second place at 73 percent.
On the positive side, shoplifting dropped 35 percent in San Francisco, similar to a 31 percent drop in Seattle. Unfortunately, Los Angeles and San Francisco were the only two Golden State cities monitored of 24 nationwide. The study included several interactive graphs. This screenshot isolates the two California cities. Los Angeles is the black line, and San Francisco the brown one:
(Council on Criminal Justice/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

(Council on Criminal Justice/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Notice San Francisco’s spike in late 2021 and early 2022, just before left-wing District Attorney Chesa Boudin was recalled by voters on June 7, 2022.
Then look at the black line for Los Angeles. The rise began in the middle of 2021, sparking another recall effort against another radical, District Attorney George Gascón. But that effort failed in August 2022 when proponents failed to gather enough signatures. After that, as the graph shows, shoplifting just kept going up and up to its current heights.
However, Mr. Gascón is facing a tough reelection bid next year. A poll released Nov. 6 by FM3 Research showed Mr. Gascón losing, 48 percent to 23 percent, to Eric Siddall, a career Los Angeles prosecutor. It concluded, “In sum, this survey shows Eric Siddall to be well-positioned for the LA County District Attorney March primary election. In a large field of candidates that includes an incumbent that most voters regard negatively and do not support, Siddall’s profile distinguishes him.”
A FiveThirtyEight survey of FM3’s polls found its forecasts for the 2022 election were 68 percent accurate, which is pretty good.
On his campaign website, Mr. Siddall pledges, “I'll make it clear to any and all criminals that the George Gascón party is over. Too many working families, seniors, women, young people and marginalized communities are living in fear for their safety.”

Other Los Angeles Crime Rates

The CCJ study also produced this graph of five crime factors since 2018. Los Angeles is isolated from the other cities.
(Council on Criminal Justice/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

(Council on Criminal Justice/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Again, shoplifting (green line) stands out for its sharp rise after the drop during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, when most stores were closed. Other larceny (black line) rose in the middle of 2021, but since has declined. Holding steady or declining a little during this period were vehicle theft (purple line), robbery (gold line), and burglary (gray line).
Here’s something else interesting the CCJ study found. In New York and other cities, there’s a seasonality to shoplifting. It rises in the spring and summer, I think because the weather becomes nice, then drops in the winter. Criminals don’t want to ply their trade any more than honest folks when it’s zero degrees outside and the wind is howling with a snowstorm.
“In Los Angeles, by contrast, there is no clear seasonality,” the study found. That also was true for another generally warm coastal city, “In Virginia Beach, there is also no clear seasonal pattern.”

What Causes Crime Increases?

As to causes, here’s what the study suggested: “Bail reform is one possible explanation, yet the timing of the reform (at least in New York) does not align with the shoplifting increase, and research suggests that bail reform likely has no association with increased larceny.
“Another possibility is a change in the rate at which stores report shoplifting to police. This analysis is based solely on reported shoplifting incidents; the underreporting of shoplifting has yet to be systematically analyzed. However, data from the Anaheim (California) Police Department indicate that a major retailer reported 8 percent of shoplifting incidents in 2022 and 20 percent in 2023. According to one report, a spike in San Francisco shoplifting may have resulted from increased reporting.”
That seems to me an inadequate explanation. If stores are closing, or locking up all their goods, then there’s not just a “reporting” problem, but a real problem.

Guns and Crime

I suggest a different reason, which needs more investigation: The lack of an increase in crime in some of these areas has something to do with America’s strong gun culture. Robbery and burglary involve violence, which can be thwarted by gun-wielding victims shooting the assailants. Criminals know this, and when gun ownership increases, they switch to easer crimes, such as looting drug and grocery stores.
The June 2022 Bruen decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the personal right to carry a firearm. Since then, gun ownership has soared.
According to an NBC poll released Nov. 21, “More than half of American voters—52 percent—say they or someone in their household owns a gun, per the latest NBC News national poll.
That’s the highest share of voters who say that they or someone in their household owns a gun in the history of the NBC News poll, on a question dating back to 1999.” That’s up from 43 percent in 2013.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has been attacking Americans’ Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms” during his five years in office. Despite the Bruen decision, he signed six more anti-gun bills on Sept. 26. And he has proposed a 28th Amendment to eviscerate the Second Amendment. He’s clearly out of step with Californians, and certainly with the national electorate.

Conclusion: Voters are Taking Action

Even in liberal California, voters don’t like getting mugged, or seeing their stores close from shoplifting. And they’re taking action. They’re arming themselves with guns. And they’re ousting district attorneys who tolerate lawlessness.
At the state level, Mr. Newsom is term limited and is now running a shadow campaign for president. So all his actions are directed there.
But look to Attorney General Rob Bonta, who says he is “seriously considering” running for governor in 2028. He of course backs Mr. Newsom’s position on gun control. But his frequent press releases highlight such issues as, “Attorney General Bonta Joins Federal Task Force at the Border to End Fentanyl Trafficking” and “Attorney General Bonta Announces Charges Against Four Suspects Accused in Southern California ‘Smash-and-Grab’ Robberies.”
California crime goes in cycles. The “permissiveness,” as it was called, of the 1960s and 70s led to the crackdowns of the 1980s and 90s, especially 1994’s Proposition 184, the Three Strikes and You’re Out Law. That cut crime, but it also led to a large prison overpopulation problem, leading to the intervention of federal courts starting in 2009.
In the past decade, the state has passed such reforms as Proposition 47 in 2014, which reduced sentences for many crimes.
Currently, it seems the need is to get rid of the radical district attorneys, replacing them with officials who enforce the current laws. We’ll see in a few years how that works.
John Seiler

John Seiler

Author

John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com and his email is writejohnseiler@gmail.com

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