In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 109, or the Public Safety Realignment Act, which shifted responsibility for certain “nonviolent” criminal offenders from the state to counties. Three years later, voters passed Proposition 47 which reduced a number of felonies to misdemeanors, including drug crimes and thefts of less than $950. Finally, in 2016, voters passed Proposition 57 which allowed thousands more inmates, including those convicted of serious crimes, to apply for early release.
Critics say the three initiatives contained serious flaws, most notably in the way they define “non-violent” acts. Together, they argue, the measures have led to the release of dangerous criminals, encouraged theft and other property crimes, eliminated incentives for drug rehabilitation, and hindered the collection of criminals’ DNA.
Some statistics bear this out. Since 2014, violent crime in California has outpaced the rest of the United States, with increases in most of California’s largest cities last year. California also had the second highest increase in theft and property crimes between 2014 and 2016.
A coalition of victims, business owners, and law enforcement professionals are now lobbying for a “fix.” The Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018 would address the flaws and loopholes contained in the trio of criminal justice reform measures by:
- Reclassifying certain serious crimes — such as rape of an unconscious person and sex trafficking of a child — as “violent” offenses.
- Enacting changes to the parole system and parolee oversight to prevent early release of violent criminals, while strengthening penalties for parole violations.
- Adding a felony provision for serial theft to prevent repeat property crimes.
- Expanding criminal DNA collection efforts.
To bolster its chances of success, the California Police Chiefs Association is now urging local elected officials to pass ordinances formally supporting the statewide ballot initiative.
“It cannot be understated how important local grassroots support is regarding this effort, and in general, toward protecting all Californians,” a CPCA press release reads.
Rising crime in California places an enormous burden on our cities, reducing quality of life and devouring public resources. The CPCA says it is in local government’s interest to help bring an end to the flaws and loopholes in current law.