What crime? Calif. advances bill barring retailers from confronting thieves.

Retailers are fuming over a bill that would likely invite greater theft.

The California State Senate has passed a bill that would ban retail staff from confronting thieves stealing from their stores.

Senate Bill 553, authored by State Senator Dave Cortese (D–San Jose), aims to prevent workplace violence and protect staff from being forced by their employers to intervene during robberies.


Driving the news: The proposed law has faced criticism from store bosses, with the California Retailers Association mocking it as an invitation for thieves to steal. Cortese argues that the bill is focused on protecting employees and does not prohibit them from stopping theft. It only prevents employers from asking non-security personnel to confront someone involved in criminal activity.

  • The bill comes as stores blame shoplifting for hitting their businesses, with Target blaming “organized retail crime” for a $400 million loss in profits in 2022.
  • Assaults in stores rose during the pandemic, with grocery store assaults increasing by 63 percent from 2018 to 2020 and convenience store assaults growing by 75 percent.
  • Workplace violence is the second leading cause of fatal occupational injury, according to a statement from Cortese’s office.
  • The bill, if enacted in law, would require employers to provide active-shooter training to workers, keep a log of any violent incidents, and allow companies to apply for workplace violence restraining orders.
  • The California bill does not affect trained security guards and highlights the need for dedicated safety personnel.

What they’re saying: Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association, argues that the bill goes too far and could invite more thefts. She says that most stores already prevent ordinary workers from confronting shoplifters and hire employees specifically trained in theft prevention for that purpose.

    • “It [the bill] 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. So what does that mean? We are opening up the doors to allow people to just walk into stores, steal, and walk out,” Michelin said.
    • “During the pandemic and even now, we’ve seen another spike in retail violence; [At] Safeways, Home Depots, it just seems to be happening every other day… People get hurt and often killed that way.” – State Senator Dave Cortese
    • The bill is currently subject to adjustments as it progresses through the State Assembly’s policy committees.
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