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California lawmakers propose bipartisan change to Prop 47 to reduce theft

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(The Center Square) – The California Problem Solvers Caucus introduced legislation to allow for the prosecution of repeat theft-related offenses and mandate use of drug courts.

The 20 member, bipartisan, bicameral caucus meet every other week to address core California problems ranging from homelessness to theft.

Proposition 47, also called the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” was passed by California voters in 2014 and both largely decriminalized drug use and reduced theft under $950, even for serial offenders, to a misdemeanor.

AB 1787, introduced by Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua, D-Stockton, as a spot bill would allow serial thieves to be prosecuted, regardless of the value of stolen property, and mandate the use of drug courts, when appropriate, to give offenders an option for drug treatment instead of incarceration.

“Businesses and the safety of customers are at risk due to the rise in organized and petty theft over recent years,” Villapudua said. “Much like many of the criminal justice challenges we face, we need a multifaceted approach to rein in the onslaught of retail theft across California.

The California Problem Solvers Caucus introduced AB 1787 as part of a larger package of bills aimed at reducing retail theft.

Another bill, SB 928 by State Sen. Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, would eliminate the sunset provision on making Organized Retail Theft no longer a crime on January 1, 2026.

“I appreciate the Problem Solvers Caucus endorsement of my bill, SB 928, which is one tool we can use to battle against retail theft and make our communities safer,” said Niello. “Bipartisan and bicameral groups are working together on common sense solutions.”

Despite the broad support of the bills from the Problem Solvers Caucus, increasing criminal penalties for serial theft and mandating drug courts could be a difficult sell to many of the state’s more progressive legislators. Should AB 1787 fail, another very similar effort at Prop 47 reform is still possible via a new ballot measure quickly approaching the signature threshold.

This ballot measure would allow offenders with two prior theft convictions to be charged with a felony, regardless of the value of the stolen property. Judges would be able to sentence offenders to prison if convicted four or more times of theft, and value of stolen property across multiple thefts could be added together so an offender could be charged with felony theft of $950 or more.

The measure also would create a new crime classification called “treatment-mandated felony,” which would allow prosecutors to charge individuals with two previous drug convictions to have the option for drug and mental health treatment to face no jail time and have the treatment-mandated felony expunged. These convicts would also receive “shelter, job training, and other services designed to break the cycle of addiction and homelessness.” Those who are convicted of a second treatment-mandated felony would face jail time at judges’ discretion.

To earn a place on the November ballot, signatures would need to be submitted some time in May.