We had the opportunity to hear a local Police Chief speak recently and he had some interesting things to say about crime statistics so far in 2015.
The biggest challenge facing most local police departments, according to the Chief, is the increase in overall small crimes since the passing of Prop 47 last November. Billed as “The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act”, its goal was to release certain non-violent criminals from the prison system as well as prevent as many from reaching it. Savings to the State would be passed on to a fund created to disperse 25 percent to the Department of Education, 10 percent to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board and 65 percent to the Board of State and Community Correction.
What was not understood by many were the changes to criminal code that would drive the program. In a nutshell, the act reduces the classification of most “non-serious and non-violent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor. This means cite and release – a ticket. It’s also retroactive for prior felonies that now qualify as misdemeanors. If you have a previous conviction for crimes such as rape, murder or child molestation or are in the sex offender registry, you will not be eligible to get these felonies reclassified. Specifics:
- Simple drug possession (including meth, cocaine and heroin)
- Petty theft under 950 dollars
- Shoplifting under 950 dollars
- Forging or writing a bad check under 950 dollars
- Receipt of stolen property under 950 dollars
That’s right. If you get caught for any of the above crimes – you get a ticket. Run out of a grocery store with an armful of steaks? If the value is under $950 then it’s a ticket. Get caught in possession of a stolen gun? If the value is under $950 then it’s a ticket. Steal someone’s laptop, purse, lawn furniture, bicycle? If the value is under $950 then it’s a ticket.
By most accounts the Act is achieving its goal of easing the prison and jail over-population, giving those with one mistake a second chance and making it easier for those with these types of “lesser” crimes in their background to get future jobs.
But it’s pretty easy to see why small crime would be up in many towns in California. With the deterrent much less severe, petty criminals have been more active and the number of theft and drug arrests are up according to the Chief. Not that this is something you should spend time worrying about, the numbers for the San Ramon Valley and most of the East Bay are still very low, but you should be aware of the re-classifications and how they are impacting your town and it’s police force.