LOS ANGELES - Gov. Gavin Newsom visited Long Beach Wednesday to meet with business owners, mayors, legislators and public safety officials and discuss efforts to step up enforcement against organized retail theft.
During the visit to The Hangout boutique store, Newsom signed legislation that -- among other provisions -- extends the work of a California Highway Patrol Retail Crime Task Force through 2025.
The task force is aimed at collaborating with law enforcement agencies statewide to combat organized theft rings, recover stolen merchandise and improve safety in retail stores.
"We've been organized in a very deliberative manner to address the issue of organized retail crime for a number of years,'' Newsom said. "That said, we are doubling down on those efforts today with this bill. ... We've all seen the images of people rushing in. ... You're seeing them all across the state of California, those organized efforts ... and we want to go after those rings. We want to go after those organized teams of folks that are connected, not just within communities but across the state of California.''
According to the governor's office, the task force in the past three years has conducted 668 investigations, leading to 252 arrests and the recovery of more than $16.3 billion in stolen merchandise.
Newsom, who is facing an upcoming recall election, touted the historical drop in California's crime rate over the past 30 years, but acknowledged the state has not been immune to a nationwide upward trend in gun violence and homicides.
"None of us are naive," he said. "We saw the headlines in Birmingham, Alabama, a big increase in gun related violence. You're seeing it all across the United States, There is not a state that has been spared an increase, particularly of gun violence, over the course of the last year.''
While he tried to highlight his efforts to bolster public safety, his critics were quick to condemn his record on the issue. California Republican Party Chair Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement, "It's hard to overstate how ineffective Gavin Newsom has been at combating crime in California.''
"On his watch, the state's homicide rate climbed 31%, major retailers are closing early because of theft and new headlines are written every day about dangers in local communities. Instead of putting forward solutions, Newsom prioritized releasing violent criminals from prison while Democrat-run cities slashed police funding. Now with a recall looming, he claims it's time to get serious.''
Joanna Rodriguez of Recall Gavin Newsom RGA Action, added, "Gavin Newsom's sudden concern about retail theft couldn't be more transparently political and desperate. Californians deserve a governor who cares about their safety and the economic impacts of increasing crime all the time - not just when facing the threat of recall.''