California’s Democratic leaders are clashing with businesses to combat retail theft. Here’s what you need to know

SACRAMENTO, California. (AP) — As retail theft rises, California’s Democratic leaders are facing a coalition of law enforcement and business groups in a bitter political fight over how to crack down on the problem. The state is currently working to preserve its progressive policies and avoid putting more people behind bars.

The two most likely paths considered this year are a ballot initiative create harsher penalties for repeat offenders, and a legislative package Intended to facilitate the fight against professional criminal networks.

The leaders behind both efforts have accused each other of misleading voters and being unwilling to reach a compromise.

How did we get here?

Both parties agree on the need to crack down, particularly against large-scale theft in which groups of brazen people rush into stores and take merchandise in plain sight.

At the center of the escalating political fight is Proposition 47, a progressive measure passed by voters in 2014 that reduced some theft and drug possession crimes. from crimes to misdemeanors – in part to alleviate overcrowding in prisons and jails. This includes non-violent property crimes such as thefts under $950.

He succeeded harder to arrest and punish people who shoplift, law enforcement said. The researchers said there was no evidence linking the proposition to increasing violent crime rates.

How are the two solutions different?

A coalition of district attorneys and businesses, funded primarily by big-box retailers, supports an initiative to impose tough penalties for shoplifting and drug offenses. Theft of any amount would be a felony if the person has two prior theft convictions.

Possession of fentanyl would also become a felony, and people charged with multiple drug charges would be ordered to seek treatment.

The ballot measure will still need to be certified by the secretary of state before it can be placed on the ballot later this month.

Democratic leaders in California, supported by the governor. Gavin Newsom wants to maintain the anti-crime measure of the November ballot. They fear the ballot proposal would disproportionately criminalize low-income people and those with substance use problems, rather than targeting ringleaders who hire large groups of people to steal goods to resell online.

Instead, they are accelerating the development of a legislative package of 14 bills that attack organized online reseller schemes and car thieves, and fund drug counselors. These proposals could become law as soon as this month.

Are the efforts contradictory?

If voters approve the crime-fighting initiative, Democratic leaders plan to roll back most measures in their own legislative package, citing potential conflicts.

Lawmakers lacked details on how the two paths clash earlier this week. They later said they feared that if both efforts succeeded, law enforcement would be able to pile on penalties and send more people to prison, leading to mass incarceration and overcrowded prisons.

About a third of the package’s measures raise possible legal conflicts with the ballot initiative’s proposals, according to participants.

The ballot initiative campaign blamed those holding hostage proposals to break up the coalition. Local attorneys who supported the ballot campaign said the two efforts could work together, with the ballot measure taking precedence over the legislative package in the event of legal conflicts.

What happens next?

Supporters of the ballot initiative said they were still willing to work with Democratic leaders, but would only consider any solution that involved removing Proposition 47.

“We’re still willing to sit down with all the leaders to discuss this measure, but I don’t want to compromise,” Greg Totten, a retired prosecutor and leader of the ballot initiative campaign, said during a press conference. week.

Newsom and Democratic leaders have until June 27 to negotiate to remove the initiative from the ballot. Meanwhile, they now plan to deliver the legislative package to Newsom’s desk by next week for signature, despite growing concerns from moderate Democrats.

“When you look at the package that we have put together, it is very comprehensive and addresses a number of details within the existing legal framework,” Rep. Rick Zbur, author of a retail theft bill, told reporters . “It was never intended that this would be in addition to a ballot measure removing the foundations of the basic law that we were trying to reform. »

Leave a Comment