FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – We have seen surveillance videos of brazen business thefts in the city of Fresno.

Tuesday night, retailers and law enforcement got together at Fresno City Hall to tackle what’s being called an “ongoing epidemic.”

“I think retailers are tired of it I think consumers are tired of it, I think people that live and work in this community are sick of it and it’s time for us to start to say enough is enough,” said Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp.

Fresno City Councilman Mike Karbassi hosted the summit meeting. “It’s a statewide issue but we have a different culture here in Fresno and we do care about the experience people have when they go and they want to feel safe going to a store and not get assaulted or get hurt,” Karbassi said. 

In the past two weeks – two store employees were assaulted in two separate crimes in Fresno – by thieves trying to leave with shopping carts full of items. One was on November 30th at the Kohl’s store at Shaw and Brawley. 

The other is on November 13th at the Lowe’s store at the River Park Shopping Center. “If people use force if people use violence during these situations and there is a strong-arm robbery we can sometimes make cases more serious than just a slap on the wrist misdemeanor,” said Smittcamp.

But Fresno Deputy Police Chief Burke Farrah said – police have lost some of the tools they have used to combat theft. “It used to be if someone came into your store with a booster bag, premeditated, ready to steal from you we could book them for a charge of burglary which is a felony crime, that’s no longer the case in the state of California, that is now a misdemeanor,” said Farrah.

Police say jail overcrowding and concerns about Covid prevent suspects from being locked up.  Farrah says partnerships within the city and the state can help build cases.

“Partnering with our merchants and partnering with the CHP and partnering with our retail loss specialists up and down the state we can build cases on these organized thieves that are coming in and victimizing your stores.”