FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Police are cracking down on organized retail crime, announcing Friday that they arrested two suspects connected to a retail ring responsible for multiple thefts at various JCPenny and Sam's Club locations.
Agents say when these thieves strike, they're not only hurting retailers, but they are hurting consumer pockets too.
"It harms businesses, it harms retailers, it harms consumers, and it puts the public at risk," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The Attorney General outlined the work of the Organized Retail Crime Task Force led by the California Highway Patrol.
Rip-offs have become so chronic in California, it took a vast law enforcement net to snag the suspects who didn't hit high-end shops, but stores frequented by families. And it was the bling that took down the ring.
"Law enforcement located evidence in the defendant's homes, including jewelry that linked them to retail thefts at multiple JCPenny and Sam's Club stores," added Bonta.
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Multiple law enforcement agencies took part in the operation that started back in 2019, including agents from local divisions and they recovered a staggering amount of stolen merchandise.
"As a task force, we participated in 1,031 separate investigations resulting in 449 arrests. We also contributed to the recovery of over $21 million worth of merchandise," said Assistant Chief Steve Ramos, with the CHP, Golden-Gate Division.
"We have secured felony guilty pleas for two of the ring leaders of this criminal enterprise and we filed charges against two others," said Bonta.
Now, more vigilant surveillance is part of the crackdown along with a tech tool for the public.
The California Department of Justice launched a portal where people can report retail theft, and Governor Newsom signed a bill into law that would extend the CHP's task force until 2026.
"Allows anyone with information involving organized retail theft to notify our office and submit tips, including potential photos or video evidence," explained Bonta.
The portal where you can report an organized crime is live and can be reached at this link:
Organized Retail Theft | State of California - Department of Justice - Office of the Attorney General
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