Crime and No Punishment

Posted by Mike Michalski on Thursday, July 5th, 2018.

Crime has been on the rise in California over the past few years and the beach cities are not immune to this trend.

Last year, in Manhattan Beach, overall crime (rape, robbery, burglary, assault and auto theft) was up 7 percent from 2016, mainly due to sharp increases in robberies and auto thefts.  Hermosa Beach experienced an 18% rise in crime, while Redondo Beach was down slightly (6%).

Compared to 2013's numbers, the increase in criminal activity in the beach cities is even more pronounced, 13%.

Representatives for all three city police departments blamed prison overcrowding and shortened sentences due to recent ballot measures and state legislation, especially for the increase in property crimes.

Of course, we've attended or heard of regular community meetings, such as Neighborhood Watch, where the police discuss crime and safety issues.  Also, if you own a business or residence with an exterior-facing security camera, many cities, like Manhattan Beach, have a means to voluntarily register your camera with the police department as an additional crime-fighting tool (Click here for details of the Manhattan Beach program).

Still, it seems as though everyone either knows someone who's been a victim or has been victimized themselves. 

So how did we get here?

The Supreme Court

Go back to 2011 and you'll find a bitterly-divided Supreme Court ruling against California and ordering that the overcrowding in the state's prisons be alleviated via a cut of 33,000 in the California prison population over several years.  Naturally, the four liberal justices, along with 'swing vote' Anthony Kennedy (who's been in the news quite a bit of late), joined in the majority while the conservative justices lambasted the decision as "gambling with the safety of the people of California."

The result?  Supposedly nonviolent offenders were shifted to local county jails (via State Assembly Bill, AB 109) but those jails couldn't handle the influx either and, consequently, many were released early on parole or as a result of reduced sentences.

Looks like the conservatives on the SCOTUS were right.  Wonder what might have happened with crime in LA County if this case had been heard just a few years later, say after Kennedy's replacement takes his place on the Court.

Propositions 47

Proposition 47 downgraded a variety of “non-serious, nonviolent crimes” from felonies to misdemeanors. These include shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, and writing bad checks. As long as the total value of the stolen property is under $950, only a ghost of an offense has occurred. A thief may now steal something under that limit on a daily basis and it will never rise to felony status.

Proposition 47 didn’t stop with theft crimes. The personal use of illegal drugs was also reclassified to a misdemeanor.

What could go wrong?  Didn't liberal supporters of Prop 47 like the ACLU and Democratic politicians in Sacramento (and their media mouthpieces) tell us that we were "over-criminalizing" minor crimes, particularly drug use offenses, and that we should not devote scarce penal resources to housing low-level criminals and drug addicts when the appropriate treatment is counseling and rehabilitation?  The measure was even referred to by its supporters as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, a misnomer if there ever was one.  Yet 64% of LA County voters were deluded into approving Prop 47.

The results are (or should have been) predictable.  Since Proposition 47 became law, narcotics arrests have dropped while thefts (which aren't even prosecuted now if the dollar amount is below $950) and residential burglaries have begun to rise. 

That's because there's a "disconnect" between what the law imagines and what actually exists, said Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks, who spent five years as chief of the LAPD.

"People got the idea that, 'We're going to do the right thing. Let's make room for the real criminals and keep the drug users out of jail,'" he said.

"But what they failed to consider is that people who are using drugs are also committing other crimes. How do they stay heroin users? How do they support their habit? … People don't want to understand that I can't be a crack addict and have a profession. Nobody's giving me drugs. I rob and burglarize and steal."

Which reminds us of the homeowner on Pine Avenue in the Manhattan Beach Tree section who actually had to defend himself with a shovel when a crazed, meth-addled thief was discovered in his garage and came after him.

Neighbors Taking Action

There's been a grassroots reaction to weakened criminal laws.  People are beginning to assume control.  Notice the proliferation of Ring doorbells in many South Bay neighborhoods.  Note too the proliferation of postings on the NextDoor app - residents film perpetrators, then post photos and videos online with messages such as: “Be on the lookout for this man. He stole Fedex packages left at my front door yesterday afternoon.”

The Ring doorbell photo shown here is currently being circulated to identify a possible burglary suspect in the Manhattan Beach Tree section.

Of course, the various local police departments also provide numerous tips on how to prevent burglaries.  As an example, you can click here for tips from the Manhattan Beach PD.

But the best response would be direct action at the ballot box.  The Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018 is an initiative for the November 2018 ballot that will correct some of the significant flaws in AB 109 and Proposition 47 (and Prop 57, another flawed initiative passed in 2016).

There is much work to be done to correct this untenable crime situation.  Time for the voters and the politicians in Sacramento to wake up and SMELL THE COFFEE!

And be thankful that the South Bay hasn't become San Francisco (yet).

This entry was posted under Smell The Coffee.