- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2021

It was predictable, yet not to the progressive left, to whom common sense is not all that common.

In 2014, the state of California all but decriminalized shoplifting. The result? Rampant theft and store closures in San Francisco.

At a board of supervisors hearing in the city this month, Walgreens said theft at its drug-store chains in San Francisco was four times its national average, and as a result, they had to shutter 17 stores because more was being stolen from them than purchased.

Brendon Dugan, the director of retail crime division at CVS Health, told The New York Times that San Francisco is “one of the epicenters of organized retail crime” and CVS employees there have been instructed not to pursue thieves “because the encounters had become too dangerous.”

“We’ve had incidents where our security officers are assaulted on a pretty regular basis in San Francisco,” Mr. Dugan told the Times.

The rampant shoplifting stems from a 2014 ballot initiative which all but decriminalized looting — folks stealing less than $950 in merchandise were reclassified to misdemeanors from nonviolent thefts. Police stopped apprehending these criminals, who simply weren’t worth the time and effort, as they would only be released and put back on the streets.

Understandably, this measure emboldened stealing, especially at drug-store retail chains. Moreover, private companies looking to defend their goods, have been sued.

Several retailers in the state have been taken to court by the people they caught shoplifting. The thieves claimed they were victims of racial profiling. Therefore, the real reason why many major retailers won’t crack down in their own stores is the fear of negative publicity.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “some large retailers including Goodwill, Walmart and Bloomingdale’s sought to punish shoplifters by requiring them to take a class in ‘life skills’ to avoid a criminal complaint. The San Francisco city attorney then sued the educational company that provided the classes for extortion and false imprisonment.”

Talk about a no-win situation.

Last year, the voters of California shot down proposition 20, a measure that would have toughened the penalties against repeat shoplifters and members of organized theft rings. Who led its opposition? None other than Silicon Valley giants Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the wife of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who have probably never even visited a retail store personally. In their billionaire cocoons they can isolate themselves from the day-to-day banalities of having to pick up a drug prescription.

Although, this is clearly a social experiment gone wrong, other states are looking to adopt California’s policies — all in the name of social justice. Several progressive candidates for Manhattan’s district attorney and in New York City’s mayoral race have advocated shoplifting shouldn’t be prosecuted because it’s “criminalizing poverty.”

In their world, everything should be free and equitable. Abolish capitalism, bring on Marxism. 

“The CVS store on my corner has started locking up basic necessities like clothing and detergent,” Cynthia Nixon, a New York City resident, former actress and progressive activist tweeted last week. “As so many families can’t make ends meet right now, I can’t imagine thinking that the way to solve the problem of people stealing basic necessities out of desperation is to prosecute them.”

First, it’s elitist and insulting to assume people with lower incomes are forced to steal, not deciphering the moral difference between right and wrong. Secondly, what happens when those stores are forced to close, jobs are lost and basic commodities are harder to find? Increased poverty.

Just look at California. The state’s progressive leaders continue to promise a better utopia through their policies. But in reality, the state has the highest level of functional poverty in the U.S., and second-highest homeless rate, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. And in San Francisco, its rampant shoplifting combined with high drug use are driving out many of the nation’s retailers.

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