Even in progressive California, the pendulum swings on crime policy, partly based on the public’s mood.
This past session, the Democratic-controlled Legislature got a little tougher in some cases, with some timely intervention by Gov. Newsom and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas on a bill to increase punishments for repeat child sex traffickers.
And, looking toward the 2024 session that starts in January, there are already more bills in the hopper to address crime or at least the perception of crime out of control.
Last week, Sen. Scott Wiener unveiled legislation designed to make it easier to make charges stick against car thieves. Under current state law, prosecutors must prove that a car door was locked, even if a suspect breaks a window, and even if a tourist must return to testify. The San Francisco Democrat’s bill would make proof of forced entry enough to prove the crime.
And Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and the city’s police chief and district attorney are joining forces to begin investigating some fatal opioid overdoses as potential homicide cases against drug dealers.
- Breed, in a statement Friday from the governor’s office: “Fentanyl is deadlier than any drug we’ve ever seen on our streets. We must treat the trafficking and sale of fentanyl more severely and people must be put on notice that pushing this drug could lead to homicide charges.”
Also last week, Rivas announced a select committee to combat retail crime, after a string of high-profile mobs ransacking luxury stores, as well as more pedestrian thefts at pharmacies. Both kinds of incidents are sometimes caught on video that quickly goes viral. The committee plans to convene hearings starting this fall and continuing into next year.
- Rivas, in a statement: “Californians have had enough of these smash-and-grab crimes and shameless shoplifting incidents. They’re appalling and affect everyone. The Assembly understands we must do more to address root causes, protect businesses owners, and fight criminal activity.”
On some counts, the cold, hard facts do back up rising public concern. In a detailed National Retail Foundation survey, retailers say that Los Angeles is the metro area most affected by organized retail crime, followed by San Francisco-Oakland. Sacramento is tied for No. 7 on the list.
Also, a new Public Policy Institute of California summary shows that violent crime jumped during the COVID pandemic by 13.5% from 2019 to 2022 and car thefts skyrocketed 32%. Between 2021 and 2022, violent crime increased 5.7% statewide and in 36 of the state’s 58 counties.
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About the Author
Lynn La is the WhatMatters newsletter writer. Prior to joining CalMatters, she developed thought leadership at an ed-tech company and was a senior editor at CNET. She also covered public health at The Sacramento Bee as a Kaiser media fellow and was an intern reporter at Capitol Weekly. She’s a graduate of UC Davis and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.