SAN DIEGO — Organized retail crime has spiked significantly in the past year, and San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan is saying criminals are exploiting outdated state laws regarding sentencing and prosecution.

Stephan says one of the biggest obstacles prosecutors are facing is criminals stealing below the amount determined to be a felony.

“The habitual thief that is coming in with a calculator and making sure it is under $950,” Stephan said. “That seems to be the number that 40 states are so settled on and many states like ours don’t allow aggregation. A person can go to a different store and you can’t aggregate the amount to show that it’s more than $950.”

The issue got worse during the pandemic when online shopping increased.

“More people were buying online and because of that it allowed for thefts to increase,” she said, “because you are able to hide your stolen product, take it to the higher offense and be able to sell it quickly, getting out of your hands online.”

The discussion took place online with the U.S Chamber of Commerce talking about confronting organized retail crime.

Stephan says that laws need to be updated and more money is needed to fund law enforcement task forces that help stop and later prosecute criminals.

“Continue to report, invest in cameras that are able to capture the images so we can do our investigation and make sure that you help us build these cases so we can make everyone safe,” Stephan said.