El Dorado County DA Vern Pierson issued this warning during an episode of "California Insider" on EpochTV. While property crimes including shoplifting are illegal, certain laws passed at the state level under the guise of "criminal justice reform" allow these crimes to go undeterred. Pierson cited two laws – Proposition 47 and Proposition 57 – that enable these illegal activities to continue.
Passed by voters in 2014, Proposition 47 downgraded certain thefts and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. It also permitted currently imprisoned felons to petition for re-sentencing under the new classifications. Those who have already served their prison terms can also have their past convictions reclassified as misdemeanors.
Proposition 47's most well-known statute raised the minimum amount of stolen goods for a felony classification from $400 to $950. This statute, critics argued, was the main cause of a sudden increase in petty theft across California.
"The practical reality is that most retailers have learned if they call law enforcement for a theft of less than $950, [police officers] will not respond," remarked Pierson. "If they respond at most, what they will do is issue a citation [for court appearance]." The DA added that most theft suspects do not show up in court as there are little no consequences.
Because of this, most businesses in the Golden State have a policy that prevents employees from reporting low-level property crimes. Some stores, Pierson added, completely stopped reporting petty theft altogether as police can't do much. To make things worse, Proposition 47 empowered robbery suspects to sue establishments if store employees physically confront suspects while in the act. (Related: LAWLESS CHAOS: LAPD tells residents to "comply" with robbers as society collapses in blue cities… escape while you still can.)
"We're a very litigious society here in California," Pierson said. "The stores and their insurance carriers really are afraid of being sued for trying to stop a crime that has little to no consequence."
Proposition 57, which passed in 2016, allowed certain criminals deemed 'non-violent' to be released early. It also banned prosecutors from charging juvenile offenders as adults without a judge's approval. The law also allowed adults tried for crimes committed as juveniles to appeal their sentences.
In April 2020, the Judicial Council of California removed cash bail for some defendants as an emergency measure to reduce the jail population during the pandemic's early days. While this statewide zero-bail order expired in June 2022, courts still have to consider each defendant's ability to pay while setting bail amounts as per a March 2021 ruling by the California Supreme Court.
The repercussions of Propositions 47 and 57 came to light by means of an October 2022 fact sheet from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a nonpartisan research group.
According to PPIC data, statewide property crimes went up by 2.4 percent last year from 2020 figures. Sixty-three percent of property crimes in the entire Golden State were larceny thefts, 21 percent were auto thefts and 16 percent were burglaries.
Meanwhile, 37 of California's 58 counties saw violent crime rise in 2021. Ten counties saw an increase of 20 percent or higher, with Fresno County recording a 24.1 jump in violent crimes for that year.
"What we've seen in the last six or seven years is that auto burglaries and auto thefts are up dramatically," Pierson said. "That's a truer set of data for where crime actually is in California.”
"We have this increased lawlessness that comes from [the perception that] 'I can take other people's property because nothing will happen to me."
Collapsifornia.com has more stories about the rising crime rates in the Golden State.
Watch the full "California Insider" interview of El Dorado County DA Vern Pierson on EpochTV below.
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