“Police are powerless”: Prop 47 revisited, critiqued by CA law enforcement analyst

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Mark Powell posits in Times of San Diego that Prop 47, passed a decade ago to downgrade certain property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, has created a serious case of crime and (virtually) no punishment. Despite its kind intentions, Powell says Prop 47 has stuck the knife in innocent citizens, retailers, and police. Many local leaders—like SF/SJ mayors Breed and Mahan—are rethinking CA’s flimsy criminal justice approach, after seeing their areas get trashed and overrun by lawlessness.

This proposition, approved by voters in 2014, makes it almost impossible to incarcerate shoplifters and thieves. Proposition 47 it is a failed experiment in criminal justice reform that needs to be changed so we can put a stop to property crime.

It was intended to keep non-violent criminals out of crowded prisons and treat low-level criminals with more compassion. Among other things, the law more than doubled the amount a suspect could steal before facing a felony — from $450 to $950. Although theft is still illegal, shoplifting is considered a low-level property crime under Proposition 47.

As part of the bill, shoplifters must steal over $950 worth of goods to be charged with a felony. Penalties for drug possession and writing bad checks were also reduced. The intent of the law is admirable, but the unintended consequences are a public safety disaster for San Diego residents and store owners.

With recent calls to defund the police and a rise in violent crimes, shoplifters have become emboldened, because they know they can steal with impunity. And theft is not limited to retail stores; neighborhoods and communities throughout the state are also feeling the effects of this flawed piece of legislation.

Many areas of San Diego have functioning neighborhood watch programs. Neighborhood watch empowers citizens to become active in the fight against crime. However, as the name implies, neighbors are merely “watching” criminals steal while police are powerless to make arrests due to Prop. 47 and the lack of law enforcement resources.

Proposition 47 has bolstered criminals because they know that if they are caught stealing the consequences are minimal, which has resulted in an increase in theft. In fact, thieves are walking out of stores without paying for merchandise while store clerks stand by and watch.

Since a growing number of retailers have implemented do-not-engage or confront policies, many shoplifting crimes are not even consistently reported. Consequently, San Diego’s crime statistics may not reflect the true number of property crimes being committed.

This article originally appeared in Times of San Diego. Read the whole thing here.


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