September 25, 2023
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Our View: It’s time to take retail crime seriously


The tri-county region counts on low crime rates as a foundation for the claim that it is a terrific, if expensive, place to work and live.

That’s why Staff Writer Brooke Holland’s front-page story on retail crime in the current edition of Pacific Coast Business Times is worth a close look — and worth action by the law and order folks across the Central Coast.

The sheriff’s departments in all three counties reported increases in commercial burglaries in 2021, compared to both 2020 and pre-pandemic years. While these figures are preliminary in nature, criminals don’t wait for trends to emerge to act, and word travels fast in the underground economy.

We have been fortunate in avoiding the headlines that accompanied so-called “flash mob” incidents of organized looting at stores in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. So far, sheriffs departments report an increase in more “traditional” break-ins of stores and restaurants. But that’s no reason to think the situation will get better all on its own, especially with omicron raging and so many people again hunkered down at home.

We’ll give credit to Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, for introducing bill to make it easier to prosecute retail thefts that cross county and jurisdictional lines. And to Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko and Sheriff Bill Ayub for endorsing the proposal. It will take months to pass and more time to implement, but it is a step in the right direction.

Likewise, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed $300 million in funding to beef up law enforcement funding for retail crime prevention, underscores how serious this issue has become.

“There is no simple solution for reversing this trend, but the governor’s retail theft budget package is a big first step toward eliminating organized retail crime that has victimized our employees, customers, and the communities we serve,” California Retailers Association CEO Rachel Michelin said in a statement.

Governance requires a balancing act between civil liberties and property rights. Rehabilitation is important and incarceration is not always the answer. We’ve reduced sentences for nonviolent crime and given many criminals a second and third chance. But we also need to make sure that when retailers open their doors, they will be able to conduct business without having to worry about organized efforts to steal and rob. Commerce across our entire region depends on a level of trust between the merchant and the customer.

To the extent that retail crime is on the rise, that trust is eroded.


Late last year, the Business Times wrote about the dilemma facing arts organizations that have had to shut their doors and then operate in a highly uncertain environment as delta and omicron upended post-pandemic plans.
In addition, many have to compete with organizations providing food, shelter and life essentials when it comes to raising money.

Which is why we were excited to learn of a $2.3 million gift to the Ventura-based Rubicon Theatre Company, which will be used in part to buy a small apartment complex to house visiting artists. The gift from Karyn Jackson, her sister Nancy Allen and brother-in-law will bolster the theater’s finances for years to come.

Well played.