CA Dems’ Crime-Fighting Strategy: Ban Self-Checkout at Grocery Stores?

California is experiencing a rise in retail theft and other crimes. In the last two years, there has been a dramatic increase in shoplifting, smash-and-grab robberies, and many more. California Democrats are now proposing legislation to curb retail theft. This would prevent many grocery stores and retail shops from using self-check-out lines. California Democrats, rather than addressing the causes of these crimes, like the controversial ballot initiatives Propositions 57 and 47 in 2013 and 2016 respectively, want to further their “nanny state” policies by attacking businesses instead of criminals who victimize them.

Senate Bill 1446 was introduced by Democratic State Sen. Lola Smallwood Cuevas. The bill states that it would prohibit a retail or grocery store from offering a self-service option to customers unless certain conditions are met. The proposed legislation allows self-checkout if an employee is dedicated to watching no more than 2 self-checkout machines and cannot be asked to do other work while they watch the machines. Smallwood-Cuevas said the self-checkout line is a major factor in grocery and retail store losses. Smallwood-Cuevas claims these machines cause $10 billion in annual losses, 16 times as much as regular checkout lines.

Smallwood-Cuevas wants to mislead you by claiming that the self-checkouts were the primary cause of retail theft. Losses amount to about 3.5 percent of retail losses, which is 16 times higher than regular cashiers. This is an impressive number, but some factors are ignored. When shoplifters enter the store, whether alone or in groups, their goal is to grab as much as possible and then run for the exits. The shoplifters either bypass the checkout lines completely, whether it is a self-checkout machine or not, they just walk past them and pretend to be using them. Self-checkout machines generate losses almost exclusively because people pay for certain items but skip others.

In self-checkouts, partial shrink is […], where the shopper only pays for a portion of their purchase. A shopper may have three cans but only scan two or type in a code to purchase a cheaper item.

California’s liberal laws have emboldened criminals, and retail theft losses have steadily increased every year, at least since 2016. These incidents have become more common since voters passed Propositions 47 & 57. These laws reduced non-violent felonies like burglary and theft from felonies to misdemeanors. This was the moment that criminals woke up. Prop 47 wiped out a particular section of the California penal code (666 P.C.). Petty thefts with previous convictions were made felonies. This section was very effective when I was a deputy sheriff on patrol. It was able to remove shoplifters and thefts from the streets. Some suspects, including first-time offenders and repeat offenders, were shocked when they learned that they could be charged with a crime and go to prison.

The reason people steal from stores is they are aware that policies like no cash bail, deferred prosecutions, and dropped charges for first-time offenders mean there are little or no consequences. They also know they can make money by selling stolen goods for cash. The criminals have no reason to stop stealing, but rather the opposite. Why would they not steal? The criminals know that there are laws in place to prevent store employees from trying to stop them. This makes it easier for them to steal without even trying to buy a single item.

With this new proposal, the Democrats have removed a “roadblock” that could be in the way of an aspiring thief. Smallwood-Cuevas uses the “Daddy Government” to impede what private businesses are doing in their stores, rather than use common sense and reconsider some of the laws she helped implement which benefited criminals. Smallwood-Cuevas and other Democrats refuse to acknowledge the need to stop their soft-on-crime policies.