It's hard to believe the holidays are upon us and I find myself asking, "Where did this year go?" But, unfortunately, the holidays can lead to increased numbers of thefts in communities everywhere. There is no doubt theft is a problem throughout the year; however, there tends to be a slight increase in the number of reported thefts around the holidays, which would make this a good opportunity to talk about theft in general.

One of the more frequently reported thefts relates to what's commonly known as “petty theft.” Petty theft simply means the stolen item or item(s) have a value or combined value of under $400.00. Any theft with a loss. The main difference between petty theft and grand theft is the punishment as petty theft is a misdemeanor offense and grand theft is a felonious violation.

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor? A misdemeanor violation is a less serious crime and upon conviction a defendant could be sentenced to serve time inside the County Jail or by fine or by both a fine and imprisonment in the County Jail for less than one year. Felony violations are much more serious crimes for which a defendant could be sentenced to state prison upon conviction. Most laws associated with theft in California are either a misdemeanor or felony based upon the loss value being under $400.00 or over $400.00. There are exceptions to this rule such as the theft of a firearm, which is always a felony or the theft of agricultural goods which is a felony should the loss value exceed $100.00.

There can also be an enhancement for those who commit a petty theft if they have a prior conviction for larceny. Section 666 of the California Penal Code makes it a felony for any person who commits a petty theft if that person has a prior conviction for theft on their criminal history. For example, if a person is caught shoplifting and it's determined they have a prior conviction for theft; they can be charged with a felony even if the value of the stolen items is under $400.00.

If you are a victim of theft, report the incident to your local law enforcement agency immediately. Even if you do not suspect anyone of the theft, officers recover items that are believed to be stolen, but have difficulty identifying the victim; therefore, it's never a bad idea to either record serial numbers on expensive items or mark you property with a self-applied number. Personally, I like to mark my tools and other items of value with my driver's license number. California driver's license numbers are easy to recognize by law enforcement officers and an officer can conduct a simple check using Department of Motor Vehicle's Computer system to determine who the license number is associated with; thus, the property owner can be identified.

As I mentioned before, thefts tend to rise during the holiday season so please take the time to protect your property. Bicycles are among some of the more commonly reported stolen items along with thefts from unlocked vehicles. If your family is planning a vacation out of town you can contact the Red Bluff Police Department and complete an Extra Patrol Form, which puts your residence on a list for extra patrols by officers during their shifts. If you live outside the City of Red Bluff check with your local law enforcement agency as most departments have a similar program. Lastly, whether you're Christmas shopping or just running to the grocery store; always lock your vehicle and do not leave items of value in plain view.

Thank you and happy holidays.

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