Two councilwomen intend to ask the city attorney to draft a resolution that would put the support of the City of Long Beach behind a statewide ballot initiative that aims to rollback some of the legislation recently passed by voters that reduced criminal penalties and the length of prison sentences for Californians.
Council women Suzie Price and Stacy Mungo will introduce the motion at Tuesday night’s city council meeting where they will ask their colleagues to support the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018. The ballot initiative takes aim at legislation like Proposition 47, Assembly Bill 109 and other laws that local law enforcement have blamed for rising rates of crimes in recent years.
“In recent years we have seen a series of poorly executed statewide measures to reduce prison population and redefine felony crimes as misdemeanors,” Price said in a statement. “While the goal of incarcerating fewer individuals and giving people an expanded opportunity for rehabilitation is laudable there have been significant changes to our judicial system which, in fact, work against those goals and endanger public safety.”
Proposition 47 reclassified certain non-violent felonies to misdemeanors and raised the threshold of theft that qualified as a felony from $450 to $950. AB-109, prison realignment, and Proposition 57, which expanded parole opportunities to non-violent inmates helped reduce the state’s prison population by tens of thousands of inmates over the past few years.
However, Price and Mungo’s item claim that it has had adverse effects on communities and, in supporting the ballot initiative, there’s an opportunity to erase those unintended consequences.
The item states that in the wake of these laws the state has seen its property crime rate increase between 2014 and 2016, placing it as the second worst state in the country. Long Beach Police Department data shows decreases in nearly every category of property crimes from February 2013-2018.
According to those five-year stats, residential burglary is down nearly 50 percent, commercial burglary is down over 27 percent and auto burglary is down about 25 percent. The largest increase in any category was for petty theft over $50 which has seen a 28.7 percent increase over that period of time. While violent crime has increased 25.5 percent this year, total part I crimes, which include violent and property crimes, are down 7.3 percent versus the five-year average.
The ballot initiative is pushing for closing some loopholes in those laws like reclassifying non-violent crimes back to felonies, stop the early release of violent felons and strengthen penalties for parole violations, establish a system for penalizing serial thieves and an expansion of DNA collection for those convicted of certain crimes including drug offenses, theft and domestic violence.
A number of smaller municipalities including cities like Escondido, Santa Clarita, San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield have expressed support for the initiative. Other entities putting their weight behind the effort include a number of sheriffs and police officers’ associations, individual council members and state legislators and the Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who heads the office where Price works as a deputy district attorney.
“Well intentioned reforms to our criminal and incarceration programs adopted by voters and the legislature have come with too many unintended consequences that have put our communities at risk,”Mungo said in a statement. “As a result, we’ve seen large increases in property crimes, the early release of violent offenders, an increase in serial offenders and a lack of DNA collection. The Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018 will help address these issues and improve neighborhood safety.”
Jason Ruiz covers transportation for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or 951-310-1772.
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