The citizens of California have learned something shocking: if you don’t punish people for stealing, more people will steal. Yeah, who could have anticipated that?

California a few years ago decriminalized what Ballotpedia describes as “nonviolent, nonserious crimes,” reducing them from felonies to misdemeanor.

I didn’t know that any crimes were “nonserious.”

Suffice it to say that if you are inclined to shoplift, you have to filch quite a lot for it to move from nonserious to serious crime in the Golden State.

Here is Ballotpedia’s list of former felonies that became misdemeanors:

  • Shoplifting, where the value of property stolen does not exceed $950
  • Grand theft, where the value of the stolen property does not exceed $950
  • Receiving stolen property, where the value of the property does not exceed $950
  • Forgery, where the value of forged check, bond or bill does not exceed $950
  • Fraud, where the value of the fraudulent check, draft or order does not exceed $950
  • Writing a bad check, where the value of the check does not exceed $950
  • Personal use of most illegal drugs

Try to keep your shoplifting under $950!

A funny thing reportedly happened after decriminalization: more shoplifting.

Hot Air (great headline: “California Shocked to Find Bill Decriminalizing Retail Theft Resulted in . . .  More Retail Theft”) summarizes what happened:

To the great surprise of the government, people noticed this change [in the law] and began taking advantage of it. They have now recorded multiple years of steadily increasing, organized robbery.

These plots are known as “mass grab and dash” thefts and they generally involve large numbers of young people all entering a store at the same time, grabbing armfuls of merchandise and dashing back out to their vehicles and hitting the highway.

Not only are robberies on the rise, but arrests and prosecutions are down. Who could possibly have predicted this? (CBS Sacramento)

Here is a nugget from a news report:

After searching police reports and arrest records, CBS13 found that while the rate of these grab and dash crimes is on the rise, the rate of arrest is down. We turned to law enforcement and the retail industry for answers. Both blame a California law intended to make “neighborhoods safe.”

“It’s a boldness like we’re seeing never before and just a disregard for fellow human beings,” said Lieutenant Mark Donaldson, Vacaville PD.

He explained these crimes have evolved into more than just shoplifting. It’s organized retail theft and he says it’s happening across the state. Cities like Vacaville, with outlets and shopping centers located near major freeways, tend to be a target for these organized retail crime rings.

Hot Air notes that decriminalization and subsequent changes in pattern of crimes is a blue state phenomenon.

I think it all starts when you consider some instances of breaking the law “nonserious.”

And how “nonserious” is it to a small shop owner if somebody steals $800 in goods?