Official seeks balance in addressing organized retail theft

By Emilie St. John

Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD — Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor found herself at odds recently with some of her colleagues over a bill targeting organized retail thefts.

Assembly Bill 1990, authored by Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, has raised McKinnor’s concerns about the balance between addressing theft effectively and ensuring civil liberties are upheld. 

AB 1990 will allow law enforcement officers to make warrantless arrests for shoplifting offenses not witnessed by the officer, as long as there is reasonable cause to believe the individual committed the crime. 

The bill, known as the Secure Transactions and Organized Theft Prevention (or STOP) Act, grants officers the authority to arrest individuals based on reasonable cause, without witnessing the crime firsthand which can lead to negative consequences and possible violations of individual rights, McKinnor said. Probable cause is the legal standard by which police authorities have reason to obtain a warrant for the arrest of a suspected criminal and for the courts to issue a search warrant.

Last month, McKinnor posted on X, urging her colleagues in the Legislature to “Please say no to the AB1990 #StopAct. It authorizes an officer to make a warrantless arrest for shoplifting offenses.”

McKinnor finds the bill dangerous with the potential overreach and possible infringement on civil liberties, particularly due process.

“Now is the time to continue our work to make smart changes to the criminal justice system,” McKinnor said. “Smart changes like my AB 2833 which will ensure that any information shared in the preparation for, in the course of, or pursuant to the restorative justice process is confidential and inadmissible in any future court proceeding. Restorative justice is an essential pillar of making our criminal justice system more fair, just and equitable.”

McKinnor wants to promite a collaborative approach between policymakers, law enforcement agencies, businesses and communities to work together in finding solutions that effectively address organized retail theft without encroaching on individual rights. 

“Ongoing evaluation and a commitment to thoughtful consideration will be crucial in navigating this challenge and fostering a safe and prosperous environment for all,” McKinnor said. “Balancing the scales of justice to protect businesses while upholding civil liberties demands a comprehensive and conscientious approach from all stakeholders involved.”

McKinnor points to a recent investment by the state for counties to address the ongoing issue of organized retail theft after California distributed more than $267 million to local law enforcement agencies across the state in late 2023, to combat organized retail crime. 

Los Angeles County recently applied for and received a grant from the state of for $15.6 million dollars to address retail theft enforcement. District Attorney George Gascón also recently formed an organized retail task force that partners with the county Sheriff’s Department and the Glendale, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Torrance and Santa Monica police departments to integrate their response to retail theft across the region. Those collaborative efforts demonstrate the importance of a united approach to tackling theft while maintaining a balance between enforcement and civil liberties,” McKinnor said.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón recently announced nearly 200 organized retail theft cases involving adult and juvenile defendants have been filed by the office.

“Organized retail theft is not a victimless crime,” Gascón said. “It harms our community’s sense of security while shopping at these retailers, and the ability for local businesses to succeed.

“When we saw a rise in organized retail theft crimes, I committed to holding these individuals accountable. Through my partnership with the Organized Retail Theft Task Force, we have been able to track down many of the offenders and bring them to justice.

Last month, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced charges against the ringleader of an organized retail crime scheme that spanned 21 counties and involved an estimated $8 million worth of beauty products, as well as multiple members of her organized retail crime ring. It is alleged that the ringleader of the scheme paid more than seven people to steal from Ulta Beauty stores, as well as other retail outlets. The ringleader would then sell the stolen cosmetic items on her Amazon storefront.

“Organized retail crime has significant financial and safety implications for businesses, retailers and consumers,” Bonta said. “Today, we are addressing an audacious instance of organized retail theft and making it clear that such criminal activity will not be accepted in California. As the leading law enforcement official in our state, my dedication lies in actively pursuing and bringing to justice those who violate the law. Ending crime is a team effort.”

McKinnor is urging her colleagues to strike a balance in laws that will hold people accountable while simultaneously upholding their civil rights.

“Restorative justice recognizes the trauma of victims and perpetrators of crime and provides a constructive space for victims and perpetrators to find healing,” she said. “Healing that will help victims to find peace. Healing that will help perpetrators find forgiveness. Healing that will break the chains of recidivism.”

Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at