The Bay Area of California is now the “Shoplifting Capital of America,” as Rich Lowry dubs it. Things are so bad that Gov. Gavin Newsom paid the area a visit.
Newsom declared that he has “no empathy or sympathy” for the shoplifters. It’s noteworthy, and a little scary, that the governor felt he had to say this. Until recently, it went without saying that elected officials didn’t empathize or sympathize with criminals, and certainly not with organized criminals, which is how Newsom described many of the shoplifters.
But does Newsom’s declaration of “no empathy or sympathy” reflect his true beliefs? It was Newsom who released thousands of prisoners — an estimated 8,000 of them — during the pandemic. Newsom also supported the elimination of cash bail.
Newsom also backed Prop 47 when he was Lieutenant Governor. It converted many offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Shoplifting was among those offenses so reduced.
These moves demonstrate Newsom’s sympathy for criminals, including many guilty of worse offenses than looting. They also show a disregard for public safety. Indeed, they amount to giving higher priority to helping criminals than to protecting the law-abiding public from them.
To be fair to Newsom, he never advocated defunding the police. However, he did indulge in BS about “reimagining” law enforcement, by which he meant enlisting social and mental health workers. And, as the crime wave gained momentum, Newsom wouldn’t commit to increasing funding for the police.
Newsom’s visit to the Bay Area may have enlightened him, at least a little bit. His team met with retailers and asked them what they needed to stem the shoplifting/looting epidemic. They didn’t respond by asking for social workers or mental health professionals. They asked for “more law enforcement presence at store locations.”
According to this report, Newsom responded by “hint[ing] that there is an ‘exponential’ increase in supporting these local efforts within the state budget, but did not get into detail.” There had better be an exponential increase in police funding, because if the existing police force is diverted into patrolling stores, it will be less able to deal with crime on the street.
Newsom has been mugged by reality, but it’s not clear that he realizes it.