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Governor Newsom Zoom video about the Target-store worker incident goes viral; let's fact check the statements of all parties involved

California is one of the toughest states when it comes to regulations in general, but what about crime?

By Julia Ann Dudley Najieb

As the political season is revving up during this presidential election year, especially between the two major political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, misinformation can easily be mishandled and distributed through the internet worldwide as the truth, making it almost impossible to correct the information with actual facts. This seems to be the case with the California governor, Gavin Newsom regarding an incident with a store clerk.

Democratic Governor Newsom has been coined by some far right politicians and voters as being "too soft on crime." This was a focus for many Republicans in California during a recall effort of Newsom in 2021--they even paid for a commercial during the recall effort purporting this misleading information, according to the Los Angeles Times. The same article explained that compared to other states, a report from the California Policy Lab found that violent crime rates increased slightly and property crime rates decreased substantially in California between 2019 and 2020.

Even if the media corrects such misinformation, some people still will choose to believe what's not true because it is more sensational. Newsom discovered this himself this past December while buying items at a Target store in Sacramento--If one store clerk is misinformed, imagine what others must believe as well ...


During a Zoom call press conference about a mental health proposition Gov. Gavin Newsom is supporting, he described an incident at Target where he saw someone walk out of the store without paying. He approached the store clerk worker to ask why they were letting this person walk out of the store with all this merchandise; why did they not stop him. Ironically, without initially recognizing him, the worker blamed the Governor before looking at him twice and recognizing him.

“As we're checking out, the woman says, 'Oh, he's just walking out, he didn't pay for that,'" explained Governor Newsom as he told the story to a group of mayors on the call. "I said, 'Why didn't you stop him?' She goes, 'Oh, the governor.' I swear to God--true story, on my mom's grave ..."

"'The governor lowered the threshold--there's no accountability,'" said the store clerk to Newsom.

Newsom said he retorted back, letting her know that was not true and that California is the 10th state with the toughest laws in America when it comes to theft.

The clerk then told the other workers about Governor Newsom's presence at the store in hopes of a photo opp in which the governor declined at the time, as he was too upset about getting blamed for something that was not true.

"Why I am spending $380 when everyone can walk the hell right out,” said Newsom.

So what are the facts of the matter, is Gov. Newsom soft on crime or is this misleading?

Let's take a look at Proposition 47 for some answers.

According to the Law Office of the Los Angeles County Defender, Proposition 47 (Prop 47) was a ballot measure passed by California voters on November 5, 2014. The law made some non-violent property crimes, where the value does not exceed $950, into misdemeanors. It also made some simple drug possession offenses into misdemeanors. It also provides that past convictions for these charges may be reduced to a misdemeanor by a court. Under Prop 47, you may qualify for a reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor for some of the following offenses:

  • Certain Forgeries

  • Commercial Burglary

  • Petty Theft with Priors

  • Bad Check

  • Grand Theft Crimes

  • Possession of Stolen Property

  • Possession of a Controlled Substance

Newsom has been serving as governor of the state of California since Jan. 7. 2019, well after voters passed Proposition 47 in 2014.

However, according to the data by the Public Policy Institute of California, they have found some evidence that Proposition 47 affected property crime. Statewide, property crime increased after 2014. While the reform had no apparent impact on burglaries or auto thefts, it may have contributed to a rise in larceny thefts, which increased by roughly 9 percent (about 135 more thefts per 100,000 residents) compared to other states. Crime data show that thefts from motor vehicles account for about three-quarters of this increase.

Meanwhile, at the end of 2021, Governor Newsom had announced new enhancements with law enforcement across the state to counteract the rampant retail theft happening in California through the Real Public Safety Plan.

Also, in January of this year, he announced the new legislation expanding criminal penalties, bolstering police and prosecutor tools to combat theft and take down professional criminals who profit from smash and grabs, retail theft, and car burglaries.

“Building on California’s existing laws and record public safety investments, I’m calling for new legislation to expand criminal penalties for those profiting on retail theft and auto burglaries," said Newsom in a January press release. "These laws will make California safer and bolster police and prosecutor tools to arrest and hold professional criminals accountable.”

Since 2019, the state has invested $1.1 billion to fight crime and improve public safety.

California law provides existing robust tools for law enforcement and prosecutors to arrest and charge suspects involved in organized retail crime — including up to three years of jail time for organized retail theft. The state has the 10th lowest threshold nationally for prosecutors to charge suspects with a felony, $950. 40 other states — including Texas ($2,500), Alabama ($1,500), and Mississippi ($1,000) — require higher dollar amounts for suspects to be charged with a felony.

Ironically in other states, such as Texas, property theft has less penalties. According to the Napier Law firm, in Texas a person committing theft of an owner’s property valued at $2,500 or less is deemed a misdemeanor theft, according to Texas Penal Code Ch.31.

Crime Statistics: According to Texas UCR, Texas had 446,531 larceny-theft crimes take place in 2021.

There are 3 different types of classes of misdemeanor theft in Texas, Class A, B, and C:

Class C Misdemeanor Theft

A theft charge is considered a Class C misdemeanor when the value of the stolen property is less than $100 and has a maximum fine of $500.

Examples of Class C Misdemeanor Theft includes:

  • Shoplifting

  • Petty theft

Class B Misdemeanor Theft

A theft charge is considered a Class B misdemeanor when the value of the stolen property is $100 or more but less than $750 and has a maximum fine of $2,000. Possible jail time sentence is no more than 180 days.

Examples of Class B Misdemeanor Theft includes:

  • Stolen television valued under $750

  • Stolen money

Class A Misdemeanor Theft

A theft charge is considered a Class A misdemeanor when the value of the stolen property is $750 or more but less than $2,500 and has a maximum fine of $4,000. Possible jail time sentence is no more than 1 year.

Examples of Class A Misdemeanor Theft includes:

  • Theft of a vehicle worth under $2,500

  • Theft by check valued under $2,500

In retrospect, California does have some of the strictest regulations in the nation.

In U.S. News article, "The 10 Most and Least Heavily Regulated States," it stated that California has the most regulations, while New York has the most complex rules, according to a new report. The article continued to state that with 395,608 regulatory restrictions, California is the most heavily regulated state in the nation, according to the report. On average, states have 135,000 regulatory restrictions in administrative rules, with California's regulations more than doubling the national average.

This is not the first time Governor Newsom has been falsely blamed for "soft laws."

Through social media, people are taking the politics of laws passed to a different level of complete misinformation, and furthest from the truth.

Even the AP wire stepped in with a fact check to correct the misinformation concerning California bill SB 553 which was blasted on social media for making it illegal for employees to confront shoplifters. That is not what SB553 purports to do.

On September 30, 2023, Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill (SB) No. 553, which requires virtually every California employer to implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan with very specific requirements. California employers should take active steps to ensure they have a compliant workplace violence prevention plan in place before July 1, 2024. The law covers all California employers except health care facilities. California employers subject to the law must also review and update their workplace violence prevention plans on an annual basis and provide an evaluation of the incidents that occurred and maintain records of workplace violence hazards previously identified. 

According to Central California news outlet, KSBY, not everyone was on board with this law which was introduced by State Sen. Dave Cortese. The law prohibits employers from "maintaining policies that require employees to confront active shooters or suspected shoplifters." It also requires businesses to keep a log of violent incidents and provide active shooter training to all non-healthcare workers.

Sen. Cortese said the legislation was intended to reduce workplace violence and protect employees from thieves.

However, the law essentially states this according to the California Labor &

Employment Law Blog: Effective July 1, 2024, it requires covered employers to adopt a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan that must include, among other things, the following: 

  1. The names or job titles of the individuals responsible for implementing and maintaining the workplace violence prevention plan.

  2. Procedures to obtain the active involvement of employees in developing, implementing, and reviewing the workplace violence prevention plan, including their participation in identifying, evaluating, and correcting workplace violence hazards, designing and implementing training, and reporting and investigating workplace violence incidents. 

  3. Methods the employer will use to coordinate the implementation of the workplace violation prevention plan among employees in the same facility or department.

  4. Procedures for obtaining assistance from the appropriate law enforcement agency during all work shifts, including a written policy prohibiting the employer from disallowing or taking punitive or retaliatory action against an employee for seeking assistance or intervention from law enforcement or emergency services. 

  5. Procedures for the employer to respond to workplace violence and to prohibit retaliation against employees who make reports of workplace violence.

  6. Procedures for ensuring compliance with the workplace violence prevention plan. 

  7. Procedures for communicating with employees regarding workplace violence matters.

  8. Procedures for developing and providing training on the employer’s workplace violence prevention plan. 

  9. Assessment procedures to identify and evaluate risk factors for workplace violence. 

  10. Procedures for correcting workplace violence hazards in a timely manner. 

  11. Procedures for post-incident response and investigation.

  12. Maintaining policies prohibiting the employer from requiring employees to confront active shooters or suspected shoplifters.


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