Law enforcement unites against Prop. 47

By Paul Walters

Voters this November will have the chance to cast a ballot for or against Prop. 47, a measure that purports to create the “Safe Neighborhood and Schools Fund,” which would come from the cost savings by various crime reduction programs.

Prop. 47 was designed to create a fund for the Department of Education for prevention and support programs in K-12 public schools, 10 percent for trauma recovery services for crime victims and 65 percent of the funds for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs to reduce recidivism of persons in the justice system.

The important question to be concerned with is, where does the money come from to make these prevention funds available?

The funding comes primarily from the savings created by the early release of current state prison inmates. Supporters admit 10,000 felons would be eligible for early release and they are so-called non-dangerous felons.

In fact, the vast majority of these felons have serious or violent criminal histories. These are persons with prior convictions for carjacking, felonies committed on behalf of organized criminal enterprises, inmates with prior convictions for armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, child abuse, residential burglary, arson, assault and assault with a deadly weapon.

The measure also reduces a number of serious crimes to misdemeanors. Here are some of the crimes that are impacted by the measure. It would eliminate the automatic felony prosecution for stealing a gun. These are people stealing handguns for violent, predatory purposes, not to add to their gun collection. This would redefine grand theft if the value of the gun is $950 or more.

Entering a commercial business during regular hours with the intent to commit theft of property not exceeding $950 would no longer be commercial burglary. Instead it will be defined as shoplifting, a misdemeanor.

Drug possession cases would now be reduced to straight misdemeanors in cases such as heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines. Currently under Prop. 36, which went into effect in 2000, multiple treatment opportunities are required before someone can be incarcerated for felony drug possession. Under current law, forgery can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony by the district attorney based on the amount of the loss and other factors.

This measure provides that all forgery is a misdemeanor if the loss does not exceed $950. All thefts where the value is less than $950 would be a misdemeanor; the same is also true for receiving stolen property.

Additionally, the measure allows that anyone currently serving a felony sentence for one of the seven crimes listed in this measure will have the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor and able to petition the court for resentencing.

What do law enforcement professionals think of the measure? There is a coalition of Law Enforcement in California that have joined together to defeat Prop. 47. This includes the California State Sheriffs Association, the California Peace Officers Association, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Narcotics Officers Association.

In addition to law enforcement opposition, it is also being actively opposed by many notable victims’ rights groups.

While we all want to prevent crime and help victims, don’t be fooled by misleading information. Get the facts.

Walters retired as Santa Ana Police Chief last year. He now works as Executive Vice President of Evidence Based Inc. He can be reached at pwalters@ebinc.com or 949-216-6814