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Crime in California still rising after state law decriminalizes theft — and most thieves get away with it

What did they think would happen?

Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California is seeing an increase in theft and a decrease in arrests, and law enforcement officials attribute the trend to a law that raised the felony threshold for the crime, according to KMAX-TV.

Proposition 47, which passed in 2014, raised the amount a suspect could steal before being charged with a felony from $450 to $950. As a result, criminals are committing "organized retail theft" to take advantage.

Police told KMAX that criminals are targeting retail stores in groups, rushing into stores to grab as much merchandise as they can, and escaping; they typically choose stores with easy access to getaway cars and major freeways. They know it is not often worth it for police to risk a high-speed chase for a misdemeanor offense.

When they are caught, they know they're not facing severe punishment.

"They know the law. One of the first things they ask us [is] 'Can't I just get a ticket so I can be on my way?' Lt. Mark Donaldson of Vacaville PD said.

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

Vacaville is particularly susceptible to this organized theft trend, since it contains numerous stores and shopping centers near major highways. In the past year, there have been 746 retail thefts in Vacaville, and less than half of the suspects get away with the crimes.

Police also attribute the rise in thefts to store policies that discourage employee involvement, and prosecutors that don't seek harsher sentences for misdemeanor thefts.

"The law is clear, they can be held accountable," retired police chief Thomas Hoffman, an advocate of Prop 47, said.

(H/T: Hot Air)

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