Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a proposal Friday to allocate upwards of $300 million over the next three years to curtail organized retail theft and violent crime across the state.

Speaking at the California Highway Patrol’s Dublin office, Newsom pledged to infuse local law enforcement agencies and district attorney’s offices with funding to crack down on retail, gun and drug crime.

The plan would make $255 million in grants available to law enforcement agencies over three years, enabling them to expand the number of officers they station at retail locations and hone in on organized retail theft.

“We recognize this moment requires us to do more and to broaden and deepen our efforts throughout the state of California,” Newsom said, referencing the retail theft operations in recent months in the Bay Area.

Newsom’s proposal would make permanent what is currently known as the Organized Retail Crime Task Force within the CHP. Since its inception in 2019, the task force has recovered nearly $20 million in stolen goods.

The renamed Smash and Grab Enforcement Unit already operates in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, and would expand to include Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley under Newsom’s proposal.

It would also provide $20 million in grants to small businesses that have been affected by smash-and-grab operations and organized theft.

State and local prosecutors and investigators would have access to nearly $50 million in combined grants over three years to combat retail crime, with $30 million allocated for district attorneys and $18 million to support the creation of a dedicated investigative team within the state attorney general’s office focusing on retail theft.

Merchandise stolen from Bay Area retailers is stored in a Concord warehouse. State Attorney General Rob Bonta called it ‘one of the largest retail theft busts in the California history.’ (Photo courtesy of California Department of Justice via Bay City News)

Taking down the perpetrators

“The resources and funding announced today, they’re a game changer,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said. The proposal “provides the (Department of Justice) with additional funding to bolster our existing efforts, taking down the perpetrators at the top of these crime rings and shutting down the pipeline of stolen merchandise, freezing out the illicit market and ensuring serious criminals face serious consequences.”

As part of the funding proposal, Newsom also included plans to create a statewide gun buyback program, fund gun violence research at the University of California at Davis and allocate $20 million to the National Guard to target drug smuggling, particularly internationally via the state’s southern border.

“I’ve traveled across the state as attorney general … to rural, to urban, coastal and inland communities. I have yet to meet a single Californian who does not want to be protected from crime.”

Attorney General Rob Bonta

“I’ve traveled across the state as attorney general … to rural, to urban, coastal and inland communities,” Bonta said. “I have yet to meet a single Californian who does not want to be protected from crime.”

Newsom is expected to include the crime prevention funding in his 2022-23 budget proposal to the state legislature, which he is set to fully unveil next month.

“I hope people will feel more confidence that the state is doing its part to help support local government and local agencies address this very, very serious issue of crime and retail theft here in the state of California,” he said.