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No, a California bill wouldn’t make it illegal to confront shoplifters

Posts falsely claim that California Senate Bill 553 would make it illegal to fight back against looters, shoplifters or burglars. Here’s what the bill actually says.
Credit: Fotosenmeer.nl - stock.adobe.com

Videos showing “smash-and-grab” burglaries at stores throughout California have circulated widely online in recent months.

In an effort to combat what California Gov. Gavin Newsom called “organized retail crime,” the state is poised to invest more than $267 million in law enforcement.

Some people have blamed the crimes on California’s controversial Proposition 47 law, which downgraded shoplifting to a misdemeanor. Now, viral posts shared in early September have pushed another piece of legislation into the spotlight. 

The posts claim that California Senate Bill 553 would make it illegal to “confront or fight back against looters, burglars and shoplifters.” Both posts say people who try to intervene would be fined nearly $20,000. 


Would California Senate Bill 553 make it illegal to confront shoplifters?



This is false.

No, California Senate Bill 553 would not make it illegal to confront shoplifters.

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California Senate Bill (SB) 553 is designed to help workers and their employers prepare for and prevent workplace violence. The state Legislature passed the bill on Sept. 12 and it is now headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk to be signed into law. 

The bill text does not mention criminal charges or fines for any person who confronts shoplifters, looters or burglars.

SB 553 requires employers to develop workplace violence prevention plans. Under the bill, those plans require employers to maintain a log of violent incidents against employees and any resulting investigations. 

According to the bill text, SB 553 also allows an employee representative to petition for a temporary restraining order against a person accused of violence toward one or more employees.

“SB 553 never, in any form, prohibited employees from doing security work as predesignated by their employer, and never impeded personnel from doing their job,” State Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose), who sponsored the bill, said in a statement sent to VERIFY. 

Chesa Boudin, executive director of the University of California Berkeley’s Law and Justice Center, also said the claim about the bill making it illegal to confront shoplifters is “blatantly false.”

“There’s nothing in the bill that restricts the ability of individuals to intervene when somebody’s shoplifting or committing other crimes,” Boudin added. 

A provision in a previous version of the bill did say employers would be prohibited from “maintaining policies” that require non-security employees to “confront active shooters or suspected shoplifters.” But it did not say workers would be penalized for confronting shoplifters.

This language doesn’t appear in the final version of the bill. Any references to shoplifting were removed from the bill “to eliminate any confusion” regarding its purpose, according to Cortese. 

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

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