In a powerful display of unity and frustration, over 1,000 concerned citizens, including small business owners and victims of crime, gathered at the California State Capitol this past month. Their mission: to support stronger anti-criminal measures and denounce pending legislation that they believe would exacerbate the rising crime crisis in the state. The growing discontent is fueled by a sense that politicians in Sacramento are out of touch with the grim reality residents and businesses across California face.

The recent wave of flash mob robberies and rampant break-ins at businesses throughout the state has left many residents feeling vulnerable and desperate for change. Assemblyman James Gallagher, representing District 3, summed up the sentiment at the rally when he declared, “Enough is enough…we have to make crime illegal again in California.”

One of the focal points of their concern is Senate Bill 553, which passed the California State Senate with a vote of 29-8 on May 31, 2023. The bill, introduced by State Senator Dave Cortese, prevents non-security workers from confronting active shoplifters and calls for retail employees to receive training on responding to such incidents.

Many small business owners, lawmakers, and law enforcement personnel fear the bill could encourage shoplifting and further contribute to the crime wave. Critics argue that SB 553 would restrict store employees from defending their property against thieves, potentially emboldening criminals.

The bill’s requirement for employers to develop workplace violence prevention plans has raised concerns among business owners. Some believe that these provisions would effectively handcuff them and force them to endure further financial losses. 

Small business owners who have worked tirelessly to pursue the American Dream feel that they are being unfairly targeted. Paramjit Khaira, owner of Sac Valley Truck Stop, expressed concerns about the potential consequences of SB 553, saying, “SB 533 would allow all shoplifters to come to the store and grab whatever they need.”

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson emphasized the need for Sacramento to hold criminals accountable, emphasizing that California’s recent policy decisions have decriminalized property crime and hardcore drug use.

Senator Cortese faced criticism from small business owners who argued that the bill disproportionately favors large retail chains and places an undue burden on small businesses. Many expressed their financial inability to hire security guards to protect their establishments. In the face of rising crime and economic challenges, Californians are calling on their elected officials to prioritize the safety of their communities and the survival of their businesses.