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How social justice is transforming America into the set for the next Mad Max movie
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

A typical Target retail store in the United States is on target to lose $1,882 a day to theft in 2023.

That’s up 67 percent from 2022 when the average store loss was $1,121.

That’s a progressive increase, pun intended.

It is the result of the Mad Max world created by eliminating the consequences of stealing.

You know the drivel.

We must right past wrongs.

Society forces people to steal.

It’s systematic racism.

There is validity, to a degree, in each point.

But the blanket retreat from a sense of boundaries — what law and order basically sets, creates, and enforces when it comes to interaction between people — breeds chaos.

Target’s 1,954 stores in the United States are on target to lose $1.3 billion this year to theft, up $500 million from last year.

Increased losses — passed on to law-abiding consumers — is a trend among all retailers whether they are brick and mortar or online.

Those inflicting the most damage aren’t old-fashioned shoplifters.

They are hardcore criminals.

On just one day, earlier this month, Manteca Police made two separate arrests hours apart at the local Kohl’s store.

The first arrests were individuals suspected to be part of an organized retail crime ring. They target specific stores and specific items to sell primarily on the Internet /

The second was a couple including a man wanted for attempted murder among other charges.

As such, they represent an inconvenient fact about retail theft that advocates for implementing various progressive justice measures to constrict law enforcement gloss over.

The reducing of theft in many cases to misdemeanors has allowed a major surge beyond the $950 felony threshold in California. And it is funding the lifestyle of hardcore criminals that live outside the law practicing everything up to — and including — murder.

Slam Manteca if you must, but  the city is the only jurisdiction in the Central Valley that has a dedicated detective to addressing organized retail crime.

As such, they have implemented procedures working with local retailers training loss prevention officers on how to handle reports on smaller incidents plus networking with the department on going after the big fish.

This has done two things. It has freed up police resources to go after the bigger threats while at the same time continues to build cases  against the small fry that more often than not get bolder.

For those who want zero tolerance, there simply is a lack of resources to do that.

Manteca’s approach leads to increased arrests. But more importantly, it leads to increased probability of successful prosecutions that ends with real time in prison of people whose organized retail theft supports a criminal lifestyle that includes murder, felonious assault, rape, illegal drug use, and such.

You can credit that to the documentation process that Manteca police have put in place working with store staff.

What is in place in Manteca — and desperately needs City Council support for the budgeting of a second detective dedicated to organized retail crime given it will get more hardcore criminals and not simply run-of-the-mill shoplifters off the streets — works.

Mayor Gary Singh and his council colleagues need to make such a second organized retail crime detective position a high city budget priority.

As elected officials, they certainly know how to read a room.

And it is clear what people want.

All the council has to do is recall last month’s state-of-the-city program at Great Wolf after an announcement was made by San Joaquin County District Attorney Ron Freitas who took over in January.

When Freitas said his office is now prosecuting property crimes once again that his predecessor Tori Verber Salazar dismissed as being heavy-handed and reeking of social injustice, it triggered the longest sustained applause of the gathering.

This is good news.

But let’s be clear.

This is not just a police problem.

It is a societal issue that involves each and every one of us.

First, let’s talk how business contributes to the problem.

Home Depot has essentially done away with self-checkout.

The odds are most people are honest.

Even those who are honest will sometimes overlook an item to scan or not realize it has been scanned improperly.

But there are those who deliberately don’t scan items.

That was built into corporate analyses to reduce manned cash registers and go with clusters of four self-checkouts overseen by one employee.

The bottom line was to save money.

It clearly backfired as either inadvertent theft or deliberate theft at self-checkouts have wiped out any savings from reduced manpower.

Then there are customers. Specifically, those that aren’t engaging in criminal acts.

A few years back a lady was about to leave the check-out at a manned Target cash register when I noticed a pair sandals that she had on the bottom rack of her shopping cart that she hadn’t placed on the conveyor belt to be rung up.

The woman’s response was telling. She glared at me with daggers in her eyes, bent down, and then slammed the sandals on the conveyor belt.

The person behind me said the lady also flipped me off but I didn’t see her do that.

Clearly you don’t want to create an unsafe situation but keeping our mouths shut when we see things that are out of kilter only plays into the hands of criminals and increases the cost of goods to everyone else.

Then there are the voters.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

What do we expect when we elect people who support certain policies they are so fervent that they lack the temperament and good judgment to make adjustments when needed?

This is not to say that the policies don’t have merit, but the worth of a leader is how they respond to unintended consequences.

The retail flight from some major cities such as San Francisco is a prime example.

While some of the shuttering of businesses specially around Union Square can be attributed  to the anemic return to in-office work, an increase in bold and brazen thefts as well as increased danger to employees trying to do their job can’t be ignored.

Yet, politicians unable to find a law and order solution that 100 percent embraces their social justice talking points, immediately blame businesses for being greedy.

That’s right. Greedy.

It’s not policy failure on the part of politicians. It’s greed on the part of businesses that — assuming they can hire people willing to work in such locations — aren’t willing to put employees in danger.

It is also their fault for assuming being in retail business means people should buy your goods instead of just taking them without paying.

Yes, it was an overreach to send people to prison for 14 years on a Third Strike when they steal a sandwich from a convenience store.

The pendulum had swung too far to the right.

It is also overreach to have a system that has created conditions where it is no longer uncommon for hordes of people to take over convenience stores and to loot the shelves of every item.

The pendulum has now swung too far to the left.

It’s time that we reverse direction.

And that doesn’t mean going from the extreme left to the extreme right.

It means aiming for the sweet spot in the middle.