Violent crime rates in California rose a concerning rise of 6.1% in 2022. This rise isn’t surprising: The approach to crime in our state is part of the problem. Social justice groups often attribute criminal behavior to societal factors or promote the idea that certain crimes, such as retail theft, don’t harm anyone.
This narrative, however, is far from the truth. For the 4.2 million small business owners in California, their establishments represent their hard work and dedication. When someone callously steals from these businesses, these shop owners suffer financial losses and face higher prices to compensate for those losses.
Theft is not merely a property crime, it also poses a threat to personal safety. Store burglaries can result in injuries or even fatalities for employees and customers who may encounter fleeing thieves armed with weapons. Earlier this year, a store clerk at a Home Depot in Pleasanton lost their life while attempting to prevent a theft involving a firearm.
Proposition 47, which was approved by California voters in 2014, made some non-violent property crimes and drug possession offenses a misdemeanor. The proposition promised to “improve public safety” and “prioritize serious and violent crime,” yet it has had the opposite effect. With the perception that law enforcement’s hands are tied due to reduced penalties for “non-violent” crimes, violent crime in California as of 2020 was higher than the national average, with our state ranked having the 16th highest violent crime offenses nationwide.
Regrettably, California’s policies not only fail businesses and individuals, they fail criminals who are themselves in need of help. A significant portion of Californians struggle with substance abuse issues. Before Prop. 47, convicted criminals had the option to attend drug court instead of face potential imprisonment. Drug courts offered supervised treatment and rehabilitation programs where successful completion resulted in a dismissal of criminal cases. The drug courts were universally supported as recidivism rates among graduates significantly decreased.
However, since Prop. 47, participation in drug courts decreased statewide by 67% from 2014 to 2018, according to the Center for Court Innovation. Their study suggests that reduced legal leverage under Prop. 47 directly influenced this decline, as eligible defendants were more likely to refuse participation due to perception of the program as lengthy and intensive.
The significant increase in drug-related deaths within California in the last three years is of great concern. The number of drug overdose deaths in 2021 exceeded 10,000 — more than the number of fatal drug overdoses from seven years prior.
To tackle this pressing issue, we must introduce sensible legislation that not only acts as a deterrent and imposes penalties on criminals but also provide incentives for them to seek necessary assistance for substance abuse or mental health issues. The first small step toward this goal was my bipartisan and bicameral effort to get the non-partisan Little Hoover Commission to conduct a comprehensive study on the effects of Prop. 47. While I was proud to lead this effort, more is required. We must act on the data and pass common-sense laws for all Californians.
If the state persists in its current direction, it will not only disappoint hardworking Californians who fall prey to crimes on a daily basis, it will neglect individuals who require support. I will consistently champion the importance of enacting practical laws that prioritize public safety and enhance accessibility to treatment.
Asm. Juan Alanis represents the 22nd Assembly District, which includes Modesto and Turlock.