The impact of organized theft in the Inland Empire was the focus of Riverside’s mayor and police chief in a meeting with the governor Wednesday, during which he signed legislation to maintain an anti-theft task force in the region and elsewhere.

“Police departments from across the state have first-hand knowledge of the increases in crime and mental health needs in our respective communities,” Riverside police Chief Larry Gonzalez said. “Directly sharing information we have on these topics with the governor and other state leaders is critical to finding comprehensive solutions.”

Gonzalez and Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson joined mayors and top law enforcement officers from 13 municipalities — including Riverside — at a roundtable meeting in Long Beach to stress to Gov. Gavin Newsom the need for proactive measures to combat organized theft activity and examine some of the reasons behind it.

“In Riverside, we share the sense of urgency when it comes to addressing mental and behavioral health shortfalls and how these health needs can be an underlying cause to criminal activity, especially when mental healthcare services are not available,” Dawson said.

At the meeting, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 331 into law, authorizing the California Highway Patrol’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force to continue operations through the end of 2025.

The task force relies not only on CHP officers, but law enforcement personnel from numerous municipalities to crack down on theft.

AB 331 designates three task force components statewide, and the Inland Empire falls into the Greater Los Angeles Area group.

According to authorities, nearly 700 task force investigations have led to 252 arrests and the recovery of millions of dollars in stolen property statewide since 2019.

The roundtable meeting also touched on rising crime rates, compared to other states, as well as how the various cities are contending with the challenges posed by different levels of street crime.

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