Posted on May 28, 2022

Violence Rises as Some Employees Fight Back Against Shoplifters, Thieves

Chris Woodyard, USA Today, May 24, 2022

Thieves have become more brazen. Against the advice of experts, some store employees are fighting back.

It has happened twice in the past week at jewelry stores in Southern California.

At around noon Sunday, a store in a Huntington Beach mall was attacked by smash-and-grab bandits, police said.

Surveillance video obtained by KTLA News showed employees fighting masked intruders near the entrance to the store, which is identified as Princess Bride Diamonds. One person attempted to clobber a suspect with a tall chair. {snip}


Frustration among merchants has been building in tandem with the growing level of violence. Some aren’t surprised that the result would swell into conflict even as they condemn it.

“They are angry because they see this bad behavior,” said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association.

A National Retail Federation survey of its member companies, many of them large chains, taken before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, found the average number of shoplifting apprehensions fell fivefold from 2014 to 2019. Prosecutions were down, too.

Retailers’ fears aren’t just about the threat of personal harm but also lawsuits that are sure to be more costly to defend than the value of stolen merchandise. The Retail Federation found the average shoplifting loss in 2019 per incident was $200.


Issues of shoplifting and retail theft play out nationwide, but California has received much of the attention. Store owners have been shaken by incidents of thugs shattering store windows, grabbing armfuls of merchandise and fleeing.


Retailers blame Proposition 47, passed by California voters in 2014, which reclassified many theft and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Under the measure, a nonviolent theft was no longer a felony unless it involved goods valued at least $950. Previously, it was $400. Critics said the measure encourages thieves to hit multiple businesses by imposing the threshold per incident, not cumulatively.

“This is just a different manifestation of this developing culture of lawlessness throughout the United States but in particular, Los Angeles and San Francisco,” Vern Pierson, immediate past president of the California District Attorneys Association and district attorney in El Dorado County, told USA TODAY in January.