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Shoplifters now more brazen due to Prop. 47
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Proposition 47 was supposed to be a crucial component in relieving the overpopulation of California’s jails and prisons and a vehicle for saving millions in costs associated with incarcerating nonviolent, non-serious criminals.
But opponents of the ballot initiative have said it has led to a sharp rise in the number of property crimes throughout the state, and tied the hands of the law enforcement community in providing a deterrent against the sort of quality-of-life crimes that impact everyday citizens.
And it doesn’t look like the law is going to change anytime soon.
Earlier this week the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety failed to pass a bill proposed by Elk Grove Democrat Jim Cooper that would have addressed many of the concerns that have arisen since the implementation of Proposition 47.
By rescheduling certain property related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, and raising the threshold for what sorts of crimes can be charges as a felony, some in the legislative and law enforcement communities, including Cooper, feel that the law shifts the power back to those who know how to exploit the law at the expense of everyday citizens and business owners who are left without much legal recourse to protect their property.
“I am very disappointed in the Assembly Public Safety Committee for not recognizing that organized serial theft rings are targeting our mom and pop businesses,” Cooper said in a statement released by the California Police Chiefs Association. “Emboldened thieves will continue to extort the law with no consequences, resulting in increased costs for day-to-day essentials for working-class families.”
On a local level, some council members agree with Cooper’s assessment and his effort to overhaul a bill that has led to an increase in property crime in their communities and tied the hands of local police from doing much more than citing those responsible or taking them into get booked and released.
“I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but I think that if you do the crime you should have to the time and this doesn’t allow for that,” Ripon Councilman Dean Uecker said. “If there’s no punishment for the crime, I think that’s a bad thing and it sends a bad message to the people who know how to get around that.
According to Uecker, those who are booked for property crimes covered under Prop 47 are more often than not back in Ripon before the officers who brought them to jail – showing a major breakdown in the way in which the system is supposed to operate.
And the general consensus appears to support Uecker’s position that police officers have their hands tied when it comes to effectively enforcing the laws which leads to tension amongst the rest of the law-abiding community that demand action where none can legally be taken.
Manteca City Councilman Gary Singh said that he sees the impact of Proposition 47 not just on the City of Manteca as a whole, but in his business on a nearly daily basis. As the owner of a liquor store not far from Highway 99, Singh said that while people used to come in and try and hide what it was that they were stealing, they do so now in the open knowing that even if they get caught by the police not much is going to come their way in terms of repercussions.
“That’s part of what makes this so frustrating for people – those who are committing the crimes know exactly what the laws are and how not to reach the level when it comes a felony,” Singh said. “In my business, they would have steal a lot of bottles before it gets to that point, so they know that they’re going to be pretty much in the clear.”
Singh said that while he understands the initial intent in Proposition 47 – to work in conjunction with AB 109 to cut down on the state’s prison population – the method in which it was put into play was flawed from the beginning, and needs to be reexamined.
“It’s definitely correlated to the residential property crimes, and those sorts of crimes have taken over – I think Prop 47 as we know it needs to go away,” Singh said. “I understand the prison population issue, but this is not the solution.”
Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal said that he hadn’t heard about the breakdown in the discussions about overhauling Proposition 47, and didn’t have Lathrop’s crime statistics in front of him to make a definitive statement on how it has impacted his community.
But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t know the reputation – and even the second-hand stories he has heard from people – of the controversial initiative.
“If because of Proposition 47 property crime has gone up, then the legislators need to take a look and perform the necessary modifications,” Dhaliwal said. “I hear stories about there being leniency in sentencing and people who used to get arrested getting tickets because of the law, and that’s not necessarily fair to residents who have to deal with the impacts of that.”
According to the California Police Chief’s Association’s release, support for Cooper’s bill – AB 875 – was consistent amongst law enforcement officials, business representatives and city governments, but that did not materialize within the committee that had the power to overhaul the existing law.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.