California voters were duped by Proposition 47’s misleading title, “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” It is not surprising that this effort passed, as over 9 million dollars were spent in support of Proposition 47. The funding proponents included a New York billionaire ($1.4 million) and the American Civil Liberties Union ($3.5 million). The majority of those who reside in El Dorado County, including South Lake Tahoe residents, voted against Proposition 47.
California has a history of lowering the consequences for committing crime. In 2000, the “Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act” was passed. The main focus of this effort was to allow those convicted of drug offenses to avoid incarceration. In 2011, Assembly Bill 109, known as “Realignment,” reduced certain criminal offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.
Now, with Proposition 47 passing, in just the last few months, many jurisdictions are seeing a spike in property crimes (up as much as 30%) and reduced bookings (20-30 percent less). Local officials have reported that fewer people are now going to drug rehabilitation because we’ve lost the method of mandating rehabilitation with a felony drug charge.
From a practical standpoint, I know those who commit crimes like possessing heroin and methamphetamine (now misdemeanors) are also significant contributors to other problems like violent gang crime and property crime. For many years, those of us in law enforcement have known that it is much harder to catch a thief than it is to catch the thief in possession of drugs.
I believe the notion of letting up to 10,000 convicted felons out of the California penal system and letting those who commit drug offenses and thefts go free instead of taking them to jail has bad effects on our crime rate and actually makes our neighborhoods and schools less safe. Maybe Californians who are tired of misleading political process should pass something called “Stop Misleading Politics Act.” Something simple, like letting the opposition name the proposition, would help. I would have named Proposition 47 the “Let Criminals Roam Our Neighborhoods Act.” Lock up your stuff.
Brian T. Uhler, Chief of Police