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  • Robert Farago

The Truth About No Consequences

California faces a smash-and-grab epidemic. Texas not so much.

Mob of over 100 looters smashes car through Compton bakery, trashes store after street takeover, the reports. Short story shorter…

The looters gathered a mile away from Ruben’s Bakery & Mexican Food for a “street takeover.” At around 3am, after a designated doorman drove through Ruben’s front door, the looters piled-in and stripped the place bare.

Why’d they do it?

Forget questions of morality. Never mind the fact that post-George Floyd riots set the standard for affirmative shopping. Set aside questions of income inequality.

The looters looted because it beats working for a living. And because they could. Specifically, because they could get away with it.

Perp Propeller

Under California Proposition 47, a perp caught stealing an item or items valued less than $950 can only be charged with a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty: six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.

California isn’t saying how many shoplifters do time or pay the full fine. From my research, I’d estimate none. Mission accomplished; Prop 47 was created to reduce California’s prison population.

As of this writing, not one of the 100+ thieves who pillaged Ruben’s Bakery has been arrested. Even if they were, they couldn’t be charged with a felony.

Street Takeovers

“Street takeovers” have been a weekly problem in Compton for the last three years. As the WSJ reports, the events lead to death and destruction.

During one eight-month stretch in 2022 at least six people died in crashes and shootings during the takeovers in the Los Angles area, the L.A. Times reported. Last April another large mob of looters targeted a Compton gas station after a similar illegal shutdown of city streets.

Responding to the latest outrage, Compton Democratic Mayor Emma Sharif urged the city council to sign an ordinance that would increase citations for those involved in street takeovers. Yup, tickets.

Compare and Contrast: Texas

You may be surprised to learn that the Lone Star State has one of the highest shoplifting thresholds in the country. The offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor for stolen goods valued at $2,500 or more.

Texas was home to at least five jewelry store smash-and-grabs (San Antonio, Texas City, Sugar Land and Houston) in the last four years. And that’s about it.

Perhaps the relative lack of smash-and-grabs or “steaming” has something to do with prosecutorial zeal. Or Texas’ more “aggressive” law enforcement. Or culture. Or economics. Or a lot of things.

Add Texas Penal Code § 9.42 to that list. The law states…

A person in lawful possession of land or tangible, movable property is justified in using force against another when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the other's trespass on the land or unlawful interference with the property.

Truth be told, thieves in Texas run a significant risk of encountering an armed citizen in most places, who may have a vested interest in not seeing goods walking out the door.

That’s got to be something of a consideration.

Law and Disorder

No matter where they’re in force, criminal statutes deter crime by punishing it when it occurs. If you reduce or remove the punishment, you reduce or remove the deterrence. It’s as simple as that.

Also simple: when theft does occur, the person being robbed is always the first responder. Texas takes a particular view of that fact. Make of it what you will.


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