By Michele Hanisee
In a recent interview, District Attorney George Gascon offered this comment regarding the car break-in epidemic in San Francisco: “What’s driving the numbers is understanding the likelihood of consequences is very low.” Of course, that obvious conclusion applies to California’s rising property crime rate in all categories, not just car break-ins.
What is undeniably ironic is that DA Gascon was one of the leading voices and proponents in support of Prop 47, which reduced a wide range of property crimes to misdemeanors even for repeat offenders. As we have pointed out for many months, this lack of consequence has fueled a rise in property crimes.
The story in which District Attorney George Gascon was quoted concerned legislation he supports which would make any “forcible entry” into a vehicle a felony; current law makes it a felony only if the car was locked. As he noted, misdemeanor charges are no deterrence to vehicle break ins. Particularly when, as we discussed in a prior article, police officers are generally able to arrest people only for misdemeanors committed in the officer’s presence. Because Prop. 47 turned a litany of theft offenses into misdemeanors – even for repeat offenders – police are unable to make arrests for these crimes, unless the crime occurs in their presence.
Gascon’s “one-off” legislation addresses a singular theft offense and seeks to curb it by making it easier to pursue a felony charge, with the real consequences that are attached to a conviction. The irony is that the legislation highlights the problems caused by Prop 47. It is refreshing to see a leading proponent of that initiative acknowledge that felony consequences for property crime will deter such crime; lets broaden that remedy beyond car break-ins.
A comprehensive effort to repair some of the unintended consequences of Prop 47 is underway. A ballot initiative known as the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act would restore accountability for serial thieves.
You can help put this desperately needed initiative on the November ballot. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and other partners are now circulating petitions to change the law.
We encourage all of our members to sign and to share the petitions as widely as possible with your friends, neighbors, family, and others. If you would like to receive petitions to help qualify the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018” click here. Please be sure to read these rules carefully before gathering signatures.
You can learn more about the Act at www.keepcaliforniasafe.org, and follow our progress on Facebook and Twitter (@KeepCalSafe).
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.