Those who engage in and profit from Organized Retail Theft (ORT) in Riverside County should be prepared for heightened enforcement from the bottom to the top, thanks to a grant awarded to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office from the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC). The office received notice it will receive the full amount of funding requested, totaling $2.05 million. Twelve additional California prosecutor’s offices and 38 law enforcement agencies were also funded in an effort to dismantle retail theft at its core.
The grant funds approved by the BSCC will be used by the office to create a dedicated and experienced team to prosecute and investigate ORT, in an approach that will support the elimination and exposure of ORT at its root. The vertical prosecution program, once implemented, will consist of a full-time deputy district attorney, full-time district attorney investigator, investigative technician, and research specialist. This team will utilize state-of-the-art techniques and stakeholder partnerships to identify modern ORT trends and schemes being used to steal goods and recruit resources.
“These grant funds are critical to elevating organized retail theft prosecution to the same level as we do other complex fraud offenses,” said Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin. “We recognize this as a serious problem, which impacts every single consumer and retailer in Southern California. Our ORT program will use proven strategies specially designed to identify the core participants behind these operations, and then hold them accountable.”
Since PC 490.4 became law in California in 2021, through May of 2023, the Riverside County DA’s office initiated 53 ORT cases, which included nearly 100 defendants. Due to the complexity and conspiracy elements of these crimes, that number likely represents only a portion of the reality of ORT in the region.
The DA’s office plans to use the model created by the grant funding to continue high-level ORF prosecutions and deterrence after those specific funds are exhausted.
The ORT grant program will be supervised by Managing Deputy District Attorney Chris Bouffard of the DA’s Special Prosecution Unit, who has nearly 23 years of experience as a prosecutor.
The grant period runs from Oct. 1, 2023, through Sept. 30, 2026. For more information about the ORT program, visit the Board of State and Community Corrections.