The Return of Crime?

The precipitous rush to reduce America’s prison population, which Paul is covering closely here, appears already to be paying negative dividends. California, which in the 1990s was one of the first states to adopt the “three strikes” sentencing policy by ballot initiative, more recently approved Proposition 47, which went the opposite direction by reducing sentences for non-violent offenders.

A few days ago the Washington Post published a lengthy feature on how Prop. 47 has become a “get out of jail free card” that may already be contributing to a rebound of the crime rate:

In the 11 months since the passage of Prop 47, more than 4,300 state prisoners have been resentenced and then released. Drug arrests in Los Angeles County have dropped by a third. Jail bookings are down by a quarter. Hundreds of thousands of ex-felons have applied to get their previous drug convictions revised or erased.

But along with the successes have come other consequences, which police departments and prosecutors refer to as the “unintended effects”: Robberies up 23 percent in San Francisco. Property theft up 11 percent in Los Angeles. Certain categories of crime rising 20 percent in Lake Tahoe, 36 percent in La Mirada, 22 percent in Chico and 68percent in Desert Hot Springs.

It’s too early to know how much crime can be attributed to Prop 47, police chiefs caution, but what they do know is that instead of arresting criminals and removing them from the streets, their officers have been dealing with the same offenders again and again. Caught in possession of drugs? That usually means a misdemeanor citation under Prop 47, or essentially a ticket. Caught stealing something worth less than $950? That means a ticket, too. Caught using some of that $950 to buy more drugs? Another citation. . .

Criminals aren’t all stupid. These details in the story are likely typical, I expect:

Officers have begun calling those people “frequent fliers,” offenders who knew the specifics of Prop 47 and how to use it to their advantage. There was the thief in San Bernardino County who had been caught shoplifting with his calculator, which he said he used to make sure he never stole the equivalent of $950 or more. There was the “Hoover Heister” in Riverside, who was arrested for stealing vacuum cleaners and other appliances 13 different times over the course of three months, each misdemeanor charge followed by his quick release.

There was also the known gang member near Palm Springs who had been caught with a stolen gun valued at $625 and then reacted incredulously when the arresting officer explained that he would not be taken to jail but instead written a citation. “But I had a gun. What is wrong with this country?” the offender said, according to the police report.

Worth reading the whole thing. Probably coming to a town near you if liberals have their way,