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SF’s Mayor Joins Effort to Roll Back Prop 47 – HotAir

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has joined an effort to rollback parts of Prop. 47, the law that raised the amount of money shoplifters could steal before being charged with a felony. Breed was joined by San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan who also supports changing the law.

They’re among a wave of Democrats this year who are backing efforts to overhaul or reform Proposition 47, a 2014 law approved by voters that reduced punishments for drug possession and theft of property worth less than $950.

Breed said she initially supported Proposition 47. But she said she’s seeing some of the unintended consequences of the measure as she tries to crack down on illegal drugs and thefts in San Francisco.

“Our goal is not to keep people locked up,” she said. “But when there are no real consequences for crimes that are committed in this city, that’s a real problem.”

Breed and Mahan are not the first California mayors to back the ballot initiative aimed at rolling back Prop. 47. Last month San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said this in his 2024 State of the City speech:

In 2014, California voters approved Proposition 47, reclassifying certain drug and theft crimes as misdemeanors. The idea was to reduce the state’s costly prison population by diverting low-level offenders into treatment programs and reducing recidivism.

That law may have made sense at the time.

However, since it was implemented, we’ve seen criminals exploit these reforms, leading to organized networks of career thieves ransacking stores with little to no consequence…

You shouldn’t have to flag down a Target employee to unlock a plexiglass cabinet just so you can get toothpaste.

We should be locking up criminals, not laundry detergent!

We should be punishing thieves, not customers!

That sounds reasonable to me but there are still a lot of Democrats, including Gov. Gavin Newsom who argue that Prop. 47 is a scapegoat and that rolling it back won’t improve the situation. Here’s a bit of a recent LA Times editorial making that case.

California’s threshold is lower than in most other states, so it can’t possibly account for higher theft increases here…

In fact, increases in shoplifting and smash-and-grabs didn’t really register as a crisis at all until after 2020. Can we think of anything that happened that year that might have affected human behavior? Something other than a change to sentencing laws many years earlier?…

We’re dealing with anxieties and social breakdowns set in motion by the pandemic, lockdowns, violent protests and a persistent nastiness in political discourse. None of this is related to the length of sentences of people convicted of petty theft.

The LA Times makes a reasonable case that Prop 47 wasn’t the immediate cause of the surge in property crime. However, even if the surge was prompted by other factors, including the pandemic, the riots, etc, that doesn’t necessarily mean that rolling back Prop. 47 would have no impact on the current problem.

For whatever reason, property crime and drug use on the street are up in San Francisco and other cities. Word is clearly out that crime does pay, partly because the chance of being arrested, charged and sentenced for these lesser crimes is so very low. People believe they will get away with “bipping” cars or shoplifting from drug stores because they mostly do get away with it. In fact, the perpetrators may get away with it dozens or hundreds of times before they are arrested once. And that “success” leads other people to think, if they can get away with it why can’t I

Again, even if Prop. 47 didn’t directly cause that, it may still be part of the problem. Bringing property crime rates back down to pre-pandemic levels will probably require more aggressive policing and a willingness to charge and lock up these thieves for longer stretches until you put a stop to the trend. The feeling on the street has to change from crime pays to it’s not worth it. It’s hard to see how you can accomplish that without tougher measures aimed at the crooks.

This report from a local California news station was published two weeks ago.

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