By Robert J. Hansen
At the recent public forum debate between Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reising and Cynthia Rodriquez last week, there was a lot of information from the candidates.
In the interest of truth and as journalists, valuing facts above all else, The Vanguard is obligated to fact check claims made by both Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig and his challenger, Cynthia Rodriguez, from last week’s DA forum.
Reisig’s claim: Prop 47 responsible for smash and grabs. – False
“The retail theft problem is across California and it’s what’s driving these smash and grabs. As long as it’s under $950, nobody is going to jail because the law says that these people get a ticket. That is a broken law,” Reisig said.
Comprehensive data on retail theft is lacking. However, in November 2019 the Retail Industry Leaders Association and Buy Safe America Coalition released a report examining the rise in organized criminal activity targeting local retailers.
“Organized retail crime is more than petty shoplifting, and the economic impact has become alarming,” said Michael Hanson, Senior Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “Professional thieves and organized criminal rings are building a business model by stealing and reselling products, increasingly online through marketplace platforms like Amazon or Facebook.”
As much as $68.9 billion worth of products were stolen from retailers in 2019.
“The impact on front line retail workers can no longer be ignored by policymakers,” said Ben Dugan, President of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR). “As these crimes have become more organized and brazen, they have also led to more violence against employees. These crimes are not just property crimes, they impact the safety of everyone in the store.”
This issue is national and, though California is one of the top ten most impacted states, there is no evidence, aside anecdotal, that shows correlation, let alone causation, between the smash and grabs and Prop. 47.
Reisig’s claim: Around 60 to 70 percent of drug offenders do not show up to court.- Unknown
There is no data to support or dispute this claim.
Reisig’s claim: That large box stores have told him they have stopped reporting thefts and no longer call the police. – Unknown
There is no data to support or dispute this claim either.
Reisig’s claim: Because of Prop 47, fewer people participating in drug treatment programs and no consequences for drug possession. – False
“Prop. 47 changed it from a felony to a misdemeanor and what we’ve seen across California is a rapid drop-off in people wanting to participate in treatment at all. The reason is there’s no consequence. It’s a misdemeanor, it’s a ticket. It’s no different than walking down the street with an open beer. The other thing that Prop. 47 did was raise the threshold to $950 so you can steal up to $950 a day and it’s a misdemeanor. That’s what’s fueling, along with the addiction crisis, this rampant increase in retail theft.
Between 4-9 percent of adults age 65 or older use prescription opioid medications for pain relief.7 From 1995 to 2010, opioids prescribed for older adults during regular office visits increased by a factor of nine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The proportion of older adults using heroin more than doubled between 2013-2015, in part because some people misusing prescription opioids switch to this cheaper drug.
There is no data to support Reisig’s claims on treatment resistance due to Prop. 47. The National trends to any substance use crisis is due to the over prescribing of fentanyl by doctors. This issue is also national where in most states, possession of any hard drug like heroin or methamphetamine is a felony.
Reisig’s claim: Thousands have successfully completed drug diversion and mental health programs in the last ten years.- False
“When you look at the changes we’ve made in the last ten years … you can look at the numbers. They’re on our website. Thousands of people have gone through our programs …”
Data on the Commons portal is only available from 2016 through 2020. The Yolo District Attorney’s office diverted 7.3 percent of all cases, 2199, from from 2016 through 2020.
Out of 7085 felony cases during the same years, 183 or 2.5 percent were diverted.
There were 4013 drug offenses from 2016 through 2020 and only 274 were offered diversion.
Rodriguez’s claim: There are examples of programs in West Coast cities that have successfully decreased its homeless population. – Incorrect
“There are many communities, especially on the West Coast that have been able to have successful programs to move people off the streets,” Rodriguez said.
According to the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, Houston revamped its entire system to get more people into housing quickly, cutting homelessness by more than half. San Diego attempted a series of one-off projects but was unable to expand on the lessons learned and saw far fewer reductions in homelessness.
Launched by Santa Clara County in 2015, Project Welcome Home succeeded in getting 86 percent of participants housing and then staying housed according to a UCSF study.
As the homeless crisis continues to grow in California, there was not a city in Washington, Oregon or California that has found a meaningful answer to reducing their homeless population.
Rodriguez’s claim: California’s level for felony theft is lower than about 40 states. – True
“Our level is lower than about 40 states that have an even higher amount than we do,” Rodriguez’s
According to the Prison Policy Institute, eleven states (PPI)s have a lower threshold for felony theft. Texas’s is at $2500, for example.
Decreasing the punishment for minor thefts is unlikely to encourage more thefts, Tiana Herring, research associate at PPI writes. As Pew Charitable Trusts found in their invaluable 2018 report, States Can Safely Raise Their Felony Theft Thresholds, Research Shows, South Carolina’s property crime rates actually continued to fall years after the threshold increased.
Rodriguez Claim: Yolo voters passed Prop 46 with 61 percent in favor and Prop 57 with 68 percent in favor. – Fact
“Yolo County, 61 percent of voters voted in favor of Prop, 47 and 68 percent of voters voted in favor of Prop, 57,” Rodriguez said.
Yolo County voted in favor of Prop 47 by 60.7 percent in 2014 and in 2016 voted in favor of Prop 57 with 68.1 percent voting in favor.
Rodriguez’s claim: Recidivism rates are between 64 and 67 percent. – Fact
“We know our prison system has a ridiculously high rate of return. Somewhere between 64 and 67 percent,” Rodriguez said.
As of 2020, about 46% of offenders released in California are reconvicted within three years of release and even more are rearrested according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
However, PPIC found that the overall recidivism rate was around 66 percent.