Thefts rise af­ter Calif. re­duces penal­ties

Yuma Sun - - OPINION -

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers’ de­ci­sion to re­duce penal­ties for drug and prop­erty crimes in 2014 con­trib­uted to a jump in car bur­glar­ies, shoplift­ing and other theft, re­searchers re­ported.

Larce­nies in­creased about 9 per­cent by 2016, or about 135 more thefts per 100,000 res­i­dents than if tougher penal­ties had re­mained, ac­cord­ing to re­sults of a study by the non­par­ti­san Public Pol­icy In­sti­tute of Cal­i­for­nia re­leased Tues­day. Thefts from mo­tor ve­hi­cles ac­counted for about three-quar­ters of the in­crease. San Francisco alone recorded more than 30,000 auto bur­glar­ies last year, which au­thor­i­ties largely blamed on gangs. Shoplift­ing may be lev­el­ing off, re­searchers found, but there is no sign of a de­cline in thefts from ve­hi­cles.

Propo­si­tion 47 low­ered crim­i­nal sen­tences for drug pos­ses­sion, theft, shoplift­ing, iden­tity theft, re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty, writ­ing bad checks and check forgery from felonies that can bring prison terms to mis­de­meanors that of­ten bring min­i­mal jail sen­tences.

While re­searchers can link the mea­sure to more theft, they found it did not lead to the state’s in­crease in vi­o­lent crime.

Vi­o­lent crime spiked by about 13 per­cent af­ter Propo­si­tion 47 passed, but re­searchers said the trend started ear­lier and was mainly be­cause of un­re­lated changes in crime re­port­ing by the FBI and the Los An­ge­les Po­lice De­part­ment.

The FBI broad­ened its def­i­ni­tion of sex­ual crimes in 2014, while the LAPD im­proved its crime re­port­ing af­ter pre­vi­ously un­der­re­port­ing vi­o­lent crimes. If it weren’t for those changes, re­searchers found Cal­i­for­nia’s vi­o­lent crime rate would have in­creased 4.7 per­cent from 2014 to 2016.

Re­searchers com­pared Cal­i­for­nia’s crime trends to those in other states with his­tor­i­cally sim­i­lar trends. They found the in­crease in Cal­i­for­nia’s vi­o­lent crime rate was less than that of com­par­i­son states, but larce­nies jumped in Cal­i­for­nia as they de­clined else­where.

Cal­i­for­nia still has his­tor­i­cally low crime rates de­spite re­cent changes in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem aimed at re­duc­ing mass in­car­cer­a­tion and in­creas­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and treat­ment pro­grams, said Lenore An­der­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cal­i­for­ni­ans for Safety and Jus­tice, who led the drive to pass Propo­si­tion 47.

“This re­port shows we are mak­ing progress,” she said in a state­ment calling for less spend­ing on pris­ons and more on pro­grams to help re­duce the cy­cle of crime.

The bal­lot mea­sure led to the low­est ar­rest rate in state his­tory in 2015 as ex­perts said po­lice frequently ig­nored crimes that brought min­i­mal pun­ish­ment.

Jail book­ings in 12 sam­ple coun­ties dropped about 8 per­cent, driven by a re­duc­tion in book­ings for Propo­si­tion 47 crimes, while cite and releases in­creased, re­searchers found.

Of­fend­ers con­victed of those crimes were about 3 per­cent less likely to be con­victed of a new crime within two years, but the re­searchers said it’s not clear if that was be­cause they didn’t com­mit new crimes or be- cause they were less likely to be ar­rested and pros­e­cuted be­cause of the lower penal­ties.

Mor­gan Hill Po­lice Chief David Swing, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Po­lice Chiefs As­so­ci­a­tion, said re­searchers’ find­ings “are con­sis­tent with what po­lice chiefs across the state have seen since 2014” and show the need for a pro­posed ini­tia­tive in­tended for the Novem­ber bal­lot that would partly roll back the 2014 law.

It would al­low prison sen­tences for se­rial thieves, re­in­state DNA col­lec­tions from those con­victed of the crimes where penal­ties were re­duced, and bar the ear­lier re­lease of crim­i­nals con­victed of ad­di­tional vi­o­lent, se­ri­ous and sex­ual crimes.

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