Retail thefts: California Highway Patrol recovers $19.7M in stolen merchandise

California Highway Patrol has been involved in nearly 900 investigations since 2019

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has recovered more than $19 million in stolen merchandise after launching task forces around the state to curb brazen retail theft. 

The CHP announced on Twitter that it's been involved in 877 investigations since the Organized Retail Crime Task Force was established in 2019. 


The investigations led to over 370 arrests and the "recovery of $19.7M in stolen merchandise," the CHP tweeted.  

As part of its organized retail theft program, the CHP coordinated with the Justice Department to establish regional property crimes task forces in areas around the state that were experiencing increased levels of property crimes. The CHP also assists local law enforcement with equipment and personnel for handling cases. 

To date, three Organized Retail Crime Task Forces (ORCTF) have already been established: the Golden Gate Division (encompassing the greater Bay Area), Southern Division (encompassing the greater Los Angeles region), and Border Division (encompassing Orange and San Diego counties), according to the CHP. 

Due to recently passed legislation, Assembly Bill 331, the task force operations have been extended until January 2026, according to the CHP.

A security guard who identified himself only as Mario keeps watch outside The RealReal store in San Francisco, California.  ( Ethan Swope/Getty Images / Getty Images)

It comes at a trying time for retailers that have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales in recent years "from brazen merchandise heists," according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).   


According to the NRF's 2021 National Retail Security Survey, retailers lose an average of $700,000 per $1 billion in sales due to organized retail crime.

More than two-thirds of retailers have even said that the pandemic exacerbated the problem, according to the survey. 

However, officials say it's also a problem consumers need to worry about. 

"This loss is carried by retailers on several levels but is ultimately passed on to consumers through price inflation to offset economic loss," the CHP said. 

A security guard walks passed a shopping cart barricade as hundreds of people line up to enter a Costco store in Novato, California on March 14, 2020.  (Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Although officials say the problem is "most commonly associated with shoplifting" it also "extends well beyond into associated organized criminal activity." 

According to the CHP, "commercial burglary, vehicle burglary, identity theft, credit card fraud, forgery, and fencing (selling or distribution of) stolen property are part of a bigger picture that finance ongoing criminal operations."