Local law enforcement leaders oppose Proposition 47. Although well-intended, its consequences will not be as advertised. The proposition promises to channel funds from prisons to schools and rehabilitative programs by reducing many crimes from felonies to misdemeanor. However, what we’re not hearing in pro-Proposition 47 arguments is that many successful programs currently exist for offenders that the proposition would negatively impact.
In Sonoma County, we have an extensive diversion program for drug offenders and specialized courts to address drug and alcohol addiction. By reducing these crimes to misdemeanors, the incentive to combat these addictions is replaced by a revolving door at the jail. Worse yet, use of date rape drugs would be reduced to misdemeanor crimes.
The measure presents the potential to cripple California’s fragile, yet recovering economy. By reducing the penalty for commercial burglary to a straight misdemeanor, Proposition 47 declares open season on retail businesses, including mom and pop operations.
Repeat shoplifters would face a slap on the wrist, and the theft of a firearm valued at under $950 would be a misdemeanor if Proposition 47 succeeds. Additionally, this misguided measure reduces the available sanction for the theft of crops, livestock and other agricultural crimes. California rises and falls on the strength of our agricultural economy, and Proposition 47 invites theft targeting our farmers.
Also worth noting is the get-out-of-jail free card given to those who commit forgery or write bad checks. In this time of increased technology and near-constant data breaches, we should not be putting out the welcome mat for those criminals who would cheat, scam and steal using our stolen identities.
Prosecutors currently have discretion in reviewing police investigations to refer first-time offenders to diversion programs and charge theft offenses as felonies or misdemeanors based upon the facts of the case and the background of the offender. Proposition 47 is a cookie-cutter approach to what should be a reasoned decision in each case.
The proposition also proposes to resentence those currently incarcerated as well as those who have already served their sentence. Proponents boast that as many as 10,000 inmates could be released if this measure passes. The drain on the system to review each case and make an independent determination will be staggering. Local communities are just coming to terms with the release of some 30,000 prison inmates as well as other impacts from realignment, which shifted responsibility for low-level offenders from state to local resources.
Being smart about fighting crime means finding effective solutions. This measure misses the mark. The Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association, composed of chiefs from all the municipal agencies, the sheriff and the district attorney, oppose this measure. Many victims rights groups join us in our opposition to this poorly drafted initiative. Please vote no on Proposition 47.
Jill Ravitch is Sonoma County district attorney. Steve Freitas is the county sheriff. This piece was also signed by Patrick Williams, Petaluma chief of police and president of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association.