Last updated on February 16th, 2024
Law enforcement in California successfully captured a suspect who was allegedly operating a large-scale syndicate involved in retail theft. During the operation, they discovered a warehouse filled with Nike products valued at millions of dollars.
On January 27, the LAPD's Commercial Crimes Division Cargo Theft Unit, alongside the Major Theft Task Force and the Organized Retail Crimes Task Force (ORCTF), carried out two search warrants in Hollywood and the City of Hawthorne, California. The police reported that the suspect was observed delivering the stolen Nike shoes to a warehouse in Hawthorne.
The LAPD stated that with the assistance of Nike's global security director, detectives and other investigators were able to search the facility. This led to the uncovering of numerous Nike products including shoes, clothing, accessories, and exclusive prototypes that had not yet been made available to the public. The estimated value of the entire collection was approximately $5 million.
A man named Roy Lee Harvey Jr., aged 37, has been taken into custody following an investigation. He is facing charges of acquiring, distributing, and selling a significant amount of stolen goods. Harvey Jr. was apprehended under California's penal code 496(a), which specifically deals with the receipt of stolen property.
Proposition 47, also referred to as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, has gained attention as incidents of organized retail crime and retail theft increase in the most densely populated areas of the state. Governor Gavin Newsom of California has consistently supported this law, which raised the minimum value for shoplifting to be considered a felony to $950, as a vital instrument for reforming the criminal justice system.
However, Prop. 47, which was passed in 2014, has faced intense criticism from retail groups, law enforcement, and even fellow Democrats. Recently, Governor Newsom witnessed firsthand the consequences of this law.
During a press briefing on Wednesday, the governor recounted a personal experience that took place during a recent visit to a Target store in Sacramento. He had the opportunity to witness shoplifting while accompanying the mayors of California's largest cities.
"He picks it up and keeps walking out as we're checking out," the governor said, referencing a thief who exited the store without paying for product. A retail worker saw the incident but did not intervene. "'Oh, he's just walking out—he didn’t pay for that,'" Newsom reported her saying.
"Well, why don't you stop him?" Newsom asked the employee. In response, she told him, "The governor lowered the threshold. There's no accountability."
"I said, 'That's just not true…Where's your manager? How are you blaming the governor?' Why am I spending $380; everyone can walk the hell right out.'"
The governor's narrative received criticism on social media, as certain critics interpreted his remarks as insensitive, suggesting that he was shifting the responsibility for the increase in retail theft onto store workers.
Jessica Millan Patterson, chairwoman of the California Republican Party, wasted no time in criticizing Newsom with a post on X.
"Shoutout to this store clerk for saying to the governor’s face what every Californian has wanted to say: that he and his radical @CA_Dem buddies are to blame for CA’s surging crime. Sadly, Newsom still didn’t seem to take the hint." - Jessica Millan Patterson
Law enforcement officers throughout California, including Sacramento Sheriff Jim Cooper, have attributed the rise in repeat offenders to Proposition 47. Cooper, who personally dealt with incidents at the Target store visited by Newsom, believes that the problem has been exacerbated due to a combination of the law itself and retailers not taking action. According to Cooper, this has led to a significant increase in retail crime across the state.
Numerous stores have adopted policies that discourage physical confrontation with shoplifters, supposedly to safeguard retail employees from harm and prevent potential legal consequences. Despite a few recent bills aiming to impose stricter punishments for retail theft, retailers are not actively endorsing these measures, according to Cooper. As a former state assembly member, the Sacramento Sheriff emphasized the importance of retailers, particularly large retail chains like Target, backing legislative proposals in order for them to gain momentum.
However, many companies are hesitant to engage in public policy matters, as they fear the potential loss of customers from any particular group.
"Retailers have their fingers up to the political wind—when some new turmoil arises, maybe some reform issue comes up, they’re more worried about their image than doing what’s right for their customers or employees. There were bills put forth by the legislature that they did not support that would have changed things." - Cooper