The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board on Monday predicted that a new crime wave could soon be coming to California, based on state voters’ decision to pass Proposition 47, legislation that mandates a downgrade of several felony crimes to misdemeanors.
“Here’s an unfortunate but realistic prediction,” the U-T San Diego editorial board began its piece. “Six months from now, a year at most, Californians will look at a troubling new wave of crime and ask, ‘What happened?'”
“Here’s what happened: last week’s voter approval of Proposition 47 on top of Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison-realignment program approved by the Legislature in 2011.
Together, these two public policies will be responsible for the early release of thousands of criminals now behind bars, including some serving life sentences under the state’s three-strikes law. Thousands more who commit new crimes, and who would have faced prison or jail time before Proposition 47, will now continue to walk the streets.”
Specifically, Proposition 47 reduces at least five different felony crimes to misdemeanors, including possession of the date-rape drug rohypnol, possession of methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine, and fraud by way of forgery.
The legislation also “unreasonably limits the scope of what is considered a risk of danger to society” when deciding whether a three-strikes offender should be set free, according to the California Police Chiefs Association, one of many law enforcement agencies that fought hard against the measure.
“Of perhaps most concern,” the board continued, “is the provision that automatically recategorizes the theft of a gun worth less than $950 from a felony to a misdemeanor. As current San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman says, nearly all handguns retail for less than $950.”
This provision is even more troubling in light of an investigation released Tuesday by NBC News’ Sacramento affiliate, KCRA3, which found that dozens of guns, including handguns and military rifles, have gone missing from several California police departments.
The Napa and Stockton police departments, Sutter County Sheriff’s Office, and the Sacramento division of the California Highway Patrol have all reported missing or stolen guns, according to the KCRA3 report. Stanislaus County is missing 13 Glock handguns, the Stockton Police Department is missing two M16 rifles, and six firearms were reportedly stolen from the car of an officer in the Los Angeles division of the California Highway Patrol.
Were these guns proved to be stolen, the perpetrator would almost certainly be charged with a misdemeanor, even if he or she had previously been arrested for theft of a firearm. The perpetrator could only be charged with a felony if he or she had previously been convicted of a prior violent felony, or a sex offense.
“Police and prosecutors throughout the state are said to be busily trying to figure out how to deal with Prop. 47,” the UT San Diego editorial board concluded. “Wish them luck.”