(StraightNews.org) – A thief in California with 90 arrests on his record was busted again just hours after his release from jail. Police arrested Jesse Leonardo Otero from the Bay Area near a shopping center in Oakland after his release from the Martinez Detention Facility jail, where he was held on misdemeanor shoplifting charges. Police told reporters that Otero is homeless and survives by stealing from stores and selling the produce onward.
A local journalist asked the thief if he was tired of his criminal lifestyle, and he reportedly answered with swears and insults. Reports say Otero avoids prison because he rarely steals items worth $950, meaning his crimes are misdemeanors under a 2014 state law that removed the prosecutor’s discretion on whether to charge certain types of stealing as a felony.
Proposition 47 created the new misdemeanor of “shoplifting,” which applies to the theft of items valued below $950. Any other entry into a commercial establishment intending to steal is classified as burglary and prosecuted as a felony.
The new legislation also dealt with repeat offenders and removed the offense of “petty theft with prior history” from the range of prosecution options; there are exceptions only for those with a record of sexual crimes or a violent or serious felony conviction, or offenders who had committed crimes against older or dependent adults.
Conservative think tank the Hoover Institution argues that low-level theft is effectively legal in California because “law enforcement probably won’t bother to investigate.” It added that if police pursue the crimes, prosecutors are often unlikely to proceed. The Institution documented instances in San Francisco in 2021 where thieves did not even feel the need to conceal their crimes. A report claimed that shoplifting occurs in the open because thieves do not fear the law and store employees, including security personnel, do not confront them.
The Golden State Senate passed legislation in 2023 banning retail staff from taking action against shoplifters for their own safety.
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