Is it safe for our communities to decriminalize pretty crime?  Are were hurting society by defining some crime as nonserious and nonviolent?  Or is this just another political correctness crusade that will ultimately lead to the destruction of the American way of life?  In today’s episode, I will explore California’s Prop 47 and the impact on the state and the country as a whole.

On November 4, 2014; the state of California overwhelmingly passed Prop 47 with 59.61% voting in favor.  Interesting to note, 4.2 million people voted for Prop 47. Another interesting note, the state of California has a population of 39.6 million people.  Put another way, just 10% of the state voted for Prop 47, 7% of the state voted against Prop 47 and 83% of the state did not vote…but that leads to a different podcast topic.

What was Prop 47?

The title of the state constitutional amendment was “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act”.  What Prop 47 did was new misdemeanors and reclassified several felony theft offenses as misdemeanors.  Here is a list of offenses:

Shoplifting. 

defined as “entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours” where the value of the property does not exceed $950.

Forgery. 

Proposition 47 reclassified forgery of specified instruments involving $950 or less as exclusively a misdemeanor.

Insufficient Funds. 

Proposition 47 increased the total threshold amount for misdemeanors from $450 to $950 and increased the number of disqualifying prior convictions from one to “three or more.”

Petty Theft. 

Proposition 47 added Penal Code section 490.2 to expressly define petty theft as “obtaining any property by theft where the value of the money, labor, real or personal property taken” does not exceed $950.

Receiving Stolen Property. 

Proposition 47 rendered all violations of section 496 that do not exceed $950 as strictly misdemeanors, eliminating prosecutorial discretion to charge those offenses as felonies.

Petty Theft with a Prior. 

For most defendants, Proposition 47 eliminated the offense of petty theft with a prior under Penal Code section 666 by narrowing the category of persons subject to punishment under that section to only include persons required to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act, persons with prior violent or serious felony convictions, and persons convicted of crimes involving elder or dependent adults.

In the spirit of being as fair to this proposition as possible, here is the introduction statement from the proponents of the law:

On November 4, 2014, voters enacted Proposition 47, “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” (See Appendix I for the full text of Proposition 47.) Proposition 47 intends to “ensure that prison spending is focused on violent and serious offenses, maximize alternatives for nonserious, nonviolent crime, and invest the savings generated from” the new act to support elementary and high school programs, victim’s services, and mental health and drug treatment. The initiative seeks to accomplish these goals through four main strategies: (1) reducing most possessory drug offenses and thefts of property valued under $950 to straight misdemeanors; (2) creating a process for persons currently serving a felony sentence for theft and drug offenses to petition the court for resentencing as a misdemeanor; (3) creating a process for persons who have completed qualified felony sentences to apply to the court for reclassification of the crime as a misdemeanor; and (4) forming a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund generated by the savings achieved by the change in the sentencing laws.

In the spirit of full disclosure, my wife and I fled California because of non-sense like this.  With total control by Progressives in the Democrat Party, the craziness has no limits. Let me translate the goal of this program.  ‘We, the political ruling class of California, wish to claim a victory in decreasing felony crime in the State so that you, the voter, will continue to re-elect us.  To that end, we’ve changed the laws such that many crimes against the citizens are no longer counted as Felonies.’

It does not take an advanced college degree (or much more time for this Podcast) to predict the results of this new constitutional amendment…if you decrease the penalty for a crime, you will get more of that crime.  The essence of this law shows the utopian view Progressives hold of humanity. In their mind, human behavior favors acting in accordance with the laws of the land. Just like their nonsensical approach to gun control, decrease the burden on the state for prosecuting petty crimes, put that money into more education, and those crimes will disappear.

Need evidence to my conclusion?  Here is a statement from the myprop47.org website–a website set up to give Californians a positive view of the new law.

On November 4, 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, a law that changed certain low-level crimes from potential felonies to misdemeanors. The savings from reduced incarceration costs will be invested into drug and mental health treatment, programs for at-risk students in K-12 schools, and victim services.

One of Proposition 47’s most promising opportunities is the reallocation of corrections funding to crime prevention and treatment. An independent state agency projects that Proposition 47 will produce hundreds of millions of dollars annually in savings at both the state level and among California’s counties.

Proposition 47 allocates savings in state prison costs to mental health and drug treatment programs at the community level, programs for at-risk K-12 students, and trauma recovery services to help victims of crime.

Need more proof of my thesis?  Here is an editorial from the Los Angeles Times published July 18, 2019.

The idea behind Proposition 47, which passed by a wide margin in 2014, was to reduce certain non-violent, non-serious felonies to misdemeanors in order to ensure that the resources of the criminal justice system are more wisely allocated, and that prison and jail beds are reserved for the offenders who are the greatest risks to cause harm if they are left at liberty.

Now five years later, how are things working out in California?

On June 18, 2018 the website Independent Institute published an article titled “California Property Crime Surge Is Unintended Consequence of Proposition 47 – Voter-Approved Initiative Wins Dishonor of California Golden Fleece Award.”

The article points out Vehicle Break-Ins has surged.  While not a new crime, vehicle break-ins were on a decline over the previous 10 years and after the passage of Prop 47, the increase has resulted in an additional 51,000 additional thefts statewide.

Shopliftings spike after prop 47.  With-in one year of passage, an additional 11,000 shoplifting crimes were reported.

In a story published by Fox News on November 1, 2019, Barnini Chakraborty (apologize for butchering the last name) she wrote: “Among the nation’s 20 largest cities, San Francisco now has the highest rate of property crime, which includes theft, shoplifting, and vandalism.”  Del Seymour, founder of the non-profit Code Tenderloin, told Fox News that fencers set up shop in the middle of the day and night around the city’s United Nations Plaza area. Theif’s can be seen bringing shoplifted items to their fence day and night. The fence gets paid and goes back for more.  Del described the process as, “a sophisticated network of international deals who cross the border to buy stolen goods. What’s worse is that a majority of the handoffs happen in view of San Francisco’s City Hall.”

Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association, said shoplifting is not only hurting retailers but is also becoming a public safety issue for consumers.  She said black-market dealers frequent cross state lines because they know California will go easy on them if caught. They know what they’re doing. They will bring in calculators and get all the way up to the $950 limit, fill up their backpack, come out, dump it out and go right back in and do it all over again.”

What is the impact to the community?  Retailers call the police, but because of the new law, they are either slow to respond or don’t respond at all–after all, if caught, the criminals will not be prosecuted.  

Imagine living in California and waiting for a package from Amazon.  Theif’s steal boxes right off the porch and suffer no consequences. People begin to feel like a prisoner in their own home.  Criminals are given more rights than law-abiding citizens. But maybe that is the goal in the first place? Let’s explore this idea a little further.

The proponents of the measure stated upfront: Proposition 47 intends to “ensure that prison spending is focused on violent and serious offenses, maximize alternatives for nonserious, nonviolent crime, and invest the savings generated from” the new act to support elementary and high school programs, victim’s services, and mental health and drug treatment.

What does maximize alternatives for nonserious nonviolent crime really mean?  If police are slow to respond or don’t even try to catch shoplifters, then how can the state maximize alternatives?  I mean if they never catch the people stealing stuff, then how are the thief’s going to learn a lesson. Furthermore, since these nonserious nonviolent crimes have exploded in frequency, just who is gaining the savings?  Taxes have not decreased in California, instead tax money has been re-directed to re-education programs…meanwhile, the citizens are not covering the cost of a massive number of new crimes at $900 a pop.

At what point will the media turn on the PRogressive Politicians who their total mismanagement of society.  One can not blame Republicans, then don’t have any control in the state. What is the impact of these policies on the rest of the country?  Surely this sort of thinking is only limited to California?

Lt. Gov John Fetterman of Pennsylvania offered to pay the bill for a young woman who was sentenced to 10 months in jail for stealing $109.63 in groceries.  Why you might ask? The Lt Gov said, “In what universe do you deserve to be sent to prison for 10 months for stealing $110 worth of groceries?” Mr Fetterman, a Democrat who was elected in 2018, said “I could scarcely believe what I was reading, this is just insane.”

What is the back story behind the insanity?

Ashley Menser is a 36-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with advanced uterine cancer, as well as cervical cancer and needs surgery to remove her uterus and the tissue around it.  Oh, also, Ms. Menser had a history of minor drug and theft crimes, and that both the 2018 shoplifting charge she pleaded guilty to–a third-degree felony–and the sentence handed down were in line for someone with her criminal history.  Ignore that last part, poor Ms. Menser is suffering from cancer and should be forgiven of her transgressions…besides those crimes are just nonserious nonviolent crimes, right?

When asked, Lebanon County district attorney, Pier Hess Graf, said the sentence handed down reflected Ms. Menser’s lengthy criminal record, including 13 prior theft convictions.  How also noted the state system is far more capable of addressing serious health concerns for inmates.

The Lt. Governor calls the conviction insane.  Can it not be said that California values plague our nation?  I could probably read a dozen stories like this to highlight how Progressives want to decriminalize shoplifting…but why bother, at least the politicians can be counted on to serve their self-interests…the real problem is the media.  Take note, even the district attorney got in on the dismissive diatribe, stating the state can pay for her medical needs. Is that not an invitation for the next person with overwhelming medical costs to get out and steal something, get caught, go to jail and make the taxpayers cover the bills.  In a future episode, we’ll talk about state-paid medical procedures…but politicians will always seek to spin things to support their political advancement (or renewal.) My concern and the reason why this podcast exists, is to highlight how the media takes the side of immorality and support causes that ultimately hurt the citizens of America?

Rather than calling out the Lt Governor ongoing soft on crime or the District Attorney for using taxpayer resources to pay for expensive medical treatment, the story is how dare society impose such a stiff penalty on this poor woman.  While the article did highlight the young women’s history of drug abuse, they did so in the light that further demonstrated her position as a victim.

The idea that low-level crimes can be cured with re-education is downright stupid.  The Progressive’s effort to decriminalize nonviolent crimes is downright dangerous. What can be done to fix things?  Simple, politicians can still be counted on to do what public opinion demands…after all, they only want to get re-elected!  Share this podcast with friends, look up the information I’ve shared with you. Get into the conversation and demand crimes (all crimes) be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Vote out any politician who goes soft on crime or uses the nonserious nonviolent excuse. The politicians work for us and our voice has real power. It is time to speak up and VOTE. Don’t let 17% of the voters enact crazy laws (like they did in California), get out, vote, and be heard.  Encourage your friend to vote. Write letters to the editors challenging the decriminalization of low-level crimes. Challenge your district of attorney to prosecute all crimes to the fullest extent of the law.

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