The Globe reported on the announcement Tuesday of two newly-introduced bills to reverse all of Proposition 47 or parts of it.
Billed as “criminal justice “reform,” Proposition 47, passed by misinformed voters in 2014 and flagrantly titled “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” effectively decriminalized drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, removing law enforcement’s ability to make an arrest in most circumstances, as well as removing judges’ ability to order drug rehabilitation programs rather than incarceration. And perhaps the most obvious aspect of Prop. 47 on display today raised the theft threshold to $950 per location, and bumped theft down to a misdemeanor from a felony.
The result has been a stunning spike in theft across the state, as well as a very low-reporting rate by shop owners and businesses because there are virtually no consequences any longer.
As the Globe reported Tuesday, Assembly Bill 1599, authored by Assemblymen Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), and Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), would repeal Prop 47, and all changes and additions made by Proposition 47, except those related to reducing the penalty for possession of concentrated cannabis.
Assembly Bill 1603, authored by Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), would reduce the threshold amount for petty theft and shoplifting back down to $400 and would re-allow shoplifting to be tried as a felony again but only if the person who did it had prior convictions.
Wednesday, Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron (R-Valley Center) announced legislation to impose stricter sentences on repeat or serial shoplifters caught stealing from California businesses.
“AB 1597 will give prosecutors the discretion to charge thieves with three or more prior convictions for theft or receiving stolen property with either misdemeanors or felonies, restoring penalties to pre-Prop. 47 levels for repeat offenders,” Waldron said.
AB 1597 is a more tailored bill, focused on repeat offenders, rather than the first-time shoplifter. There is a significant difference between retail theft used for “resale” such as Louis Vuitton handbags, expensive watches, jewelry, clothing from Burberry, or even a giant shopping bag full of baby formula, and someone stealing food to eat.
“I believe in second chances,” said Waldron. “But your fourth conviction for stealing is not a mistake – it’s a lifestyle, and one that demands more serious consequences than we currently have. Our justice system needs to focus more on rehabilitation, but the lack of accountability for criminal behavior makes it harder to connect people with the services and programs they need to turn their lives around.”
Waldron’s bill “will ask voters to repeal a portion of Prop. 47 to allow a person with three or more convictions for petty theft, grand theft, elder financial abuse, auto theft, burglary, carjacking, robbery or felony receiving stolen property to be sentenced to up to three years in jail upon their fourth theft conviction.”
The Globe recently reported on a few headlines of well-coordinated episodes of serial retail theft:
- ABC7: Video shows empty SF Louis Vuitton store ransacked by thieves
- SFC: Union Square leaders vow not to let violent night of looting, vandalism hold them back
- Dozens of looters ransack Walnut Creek Nordstrom store
- SFC: S.F. leaders to limit car access to Union Square after ‘horrible’ night of looting
This crime wave is also reflected in recent Globe articles about Walgreens announcing that five additional outlets in San Francisco would be closing on top of the 17 already shuttered just since 2019, as well as serious daily theft and crime troubles at the iconic Target on Mission Street between Third and Fourth Streets. “This store loses $25,000 a day to shoplifting,” an SFPD officer recently told the Globe in lengthy, taped interviews. “That’s $25,000 that walks out the door on average between 9 and 6 every day.”
I wrote the chapter on crime in James Lacy‘s Taxifornia 2016, for which I interviewed Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert in 2016 about the damaging impact of Prop. 47. She was instrumental in providing confirmation about the rising crime rate in Sacramento and California.
“In 2014, California voters were sold on reforming the state’s drug laws with Proposition 47. However, the measure covered more crimes than non-violent drug offenders. Moreover, drug addicts are likely to get less treatment in the state’s drug courts because prosecutors have lost a bargaining chip in the plea process. Add to it the court-ordered prisoner releases as a part of the state’s prison realignment under the 2011 AB 109 law, and you have a state ripe for a surge in crime; such as what is already underway in Oakland, which even after Jerry Brown’s eight years on-the-scene as Mayor, the FBI still considers one of the most dangerous cities in America.”
We can now see that Prop. 47 was not criminal justice “reform” at all.
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