Prediction: California crime wave coming

Here’s an unfortunate but realistic prediction: Six months from now, a year at most, Californians will look at a troubling new wave of crime and ask, “What happened?”

Here’s what happened: Last week’s voter approval of Proposition 47 on top of Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison-realignment program approved by the Legislature in 2011.   Together, these two public policies will be responsible for the early release of thousands of criminals now behind prison bars, including some serving life sentences under the state’s three-strikes law.

Thousands more who commit new crimes, and who would have faced prison or jail time before Proposition 47, will now continue to walk the streets.  Many of these people will be drug offenders.

Prosecutors who previously could hold the threat of incarceration over the head of drug abusers as a tool to force them into treatment will no longer have that tool available.  Many more drug abusers who want to get into already crowded treatment programs will find it even more difficult to find a program that can take them.

Proposition 47 was the well-intentioned idea of former San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.  Their argument was that criminals convicted of certain nonviolent offenses, particularly drug crimes, belong in treatment programs, not prison.

To achieve that, Prop. 47 reduced six categories of nonviolent crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor.   It provides that criminals now in prison for such crimes can petition for immediate release.

And it says that savings stemming from the reduced state prison population, an estimated $100 million to $200 million a year, must be divvied up among mental health and drug abuse programs, school truancy and dropout programs and the state crime victims compensation fund.

Sadly, there are many ways that the specifics of the initiative fail its good intentions.  Of perhaps most concern is the provision that automatically recategorizes the theft of a gun worth less than $950 from a felony to a misdemeanor.

As current San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman says, nearly all handguns retail for less than $950.

“People don’t steal guns so they can add to their gun collection,” she said.  “They steal guns to commit another crime.”  The simple possession of date-rape drugs, previously a felony, is now a misdemeanor, potentially undermining laws combating sexual violence.

The money earmarked for mental health and drug treatment programs will not materialize for probably a year and, when it does show up, it will be a relative pittance for a state the size of California.

Besides, Prop. 47 does not mandate that drug abusers even seek treatment. Addicts who cannot get or do not want treatment tend to commit more crimes to get money to buy more drugs.

Police and prosecutors throughout the state are said to be busily trying to figure out how to deal with Prop. 47.    Wish them luck.

Source:   10th November 2014

Back to top of page

Powered by WordPress