Progressive mayors are backing an effort to undo certain policies in a decades-old California crime referendum that downgraded penalties for petty theft and drug possession that critics say has emboldened criminals.
The 2014 law in question, Proposition 47, reclassified a number of felonies, including retail and property theft, as misdemeanors. Under Prop 47, petty theft of goods valued under $950 is classified as a misdemeanor, even for multiple offenses. It also took a broad swath of narcotics possession offenses that were previously felonies and converted them to misdemeanors.
But a ballot initiative to amend Prop 47, called the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act, has been earning support from both sides of the political spectrum in the Golden State, and has already received nearly 70% of the petition signatures required to be included on the ballot this November, according to the campaign behind the measure.
“This initiative, make no mistake about it… is a very balanced, very measured and thoughtful approach,” Greg Totten, co-chair of Californians to Reduce Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft and CEO of the California District Attorneys Association, told Fox News Digital in an interview. “It’s not blue, it’s not red. It’s just about California.”
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Two Democratic progressive mayors in two of California’s biggest cities — San Francisco Mayor London Breed and San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan — endorsed the reform campaign earlier this week.
Breed, who initially supported Prop 47, said that she’s now seeing unintended consequences of the measure as she tries to crack down on illegal drugs and theft in her city, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“Our goal is not to keep people locked up,” she said. “But when there are no real consequences for crimes that are committed in this city, that’s a real problem.”
Totten — who, prior to his position with the California District Attorneys Association, served as a prosecutor for four decades — explained to Fox News Digital that, conceptually, Prop 47 was initially presented as a way to drive “more treatment, less jail.”
Totten said that while certainly fewer offenders have been jailed, treatment for drug offenders involving hard drugs including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, PCP and fentanyl has “gone markedly down.”
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“We used to have robust drug court programs throughout the state, you had robust treatment programs, but now, because there are no consequences in California, people are not going into treatment,” he said.
“The historic way that our criminal justice system has been able to influence people into treatment is by essentially having the possibility of jail time and a felony conviction as a means of compelling them to go to treatment. And if they go to treatment, and they don’t go to jail, that’s historically the way it’s operated,” Totten explained.
“Well, unfortunately, Proposition 47 took away that incentive.”
An Axis Research poll conducted in November showed that 70% of Californians are likely to support the measure amending Prop 47. The petition to get the measure on the ballot has over 360,000 signatures and is on pace to earn well over the roughly 500,000 signatures needed before the April deadline, the group said.
“California and Californians are very much at a tipping point. The public is sick and tired of the rampant open-air drug use, the homelessness issue and the theft that occurs before their eyes,” Totten remarked. “I mean, they walk into stores and products are locked up, inventories reduced, store hours are reduced. Stores are closing, malls are closed. And so the public is ready for change,” he said.
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O. H. Skinner, the executive director for the consumer advocacy group Alliance for Consumers, said, “Proposition 47 is a major consumer protection concern because crime is a major consumer issue.”
It is hard to get excited about shopping with your family when staring down the threat of unrestrained theft, car break-ins, or seeing a car blow through the storefront as part of a smash-and-grab assault. And the crime in California cities is creating a real risk that some California communities will soon feel like retail deserts, as large and small retailers close up shop in response to crime and theft,” he said.
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“California consumers deserve a chance to weigh in on Proposition 47 and the social chaos it has helped foster in their lives,” Skinner added.