Large retailers including Safeway, Target, Rite Aid and CVS pharmacies say they have seen shoplifting jump at least 15 percent since California voters reduced theft penalties 1 1/2 years ago.
Shoplifting reports in Los Angeles increased by a quarter in the first year after voters approved Proposition 47 in November 2014, according to statistics compiled for The Associated Press.
Preliminary FBI crime reports show a 12 percent jump in larceny-theft, which includes shoplifting.
But several experts say there is no proof that reduced criminal penalties caused the shoplifting surge. A proposition supporter says law enforcement still has plenty of tools.
The increase in shoplifting reports sets up a debate over how much criminals pay attention to penalties, and whether law enforcement is doing enough to adapt to the legal change.