Commentary: Sacramento DA Getting Off Easy Despite the Crime Increase

By  David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Sacramento, CA – Even before the two most recent shootings, Sacramento was doing far worse in terms of crime than a lot of other communities in California.  A key difference is that when a serious crime has occurred in places like Los Angeles or San Francisco, the finger immediately gets pointed to the reform DA’s.

On the other hand, when a serious crime occurs in Sacramento, a traditional, law and order DA like Anne Marie Schubert is rarely called into question.

As Fordham Law Professor John Pfaff has pointed out repeatedly, crime like murder in particularly has gone up a lot.  And he argued, for the most part, it went up “on the status quo’s watch.”

He writes: “Murder went up in places with no reforms. It went up in places with reforms… but those reforms were always less than their detractors (and many proponents) said.”

In fact, an analysis by Third Way showed, “The rate of murders in the US has gone up at an alarming rate. But, despite a media narrative to the contrary, this is a problem that afflicts Republican-run cities and states as much or more than the Democratic bastions.”

In 2020, they found, “per capita murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Donald Trump than those won by Joe Biden.”

“8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century,” they found.

So despite the fact that it has been the left’s “soft-on-crime” approach that has been attacked in the mainstream media, including in reform cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, the murder rates have gone up far higher in cities with traditional DA’s.

But that’s not how the media has framed it.  The Troy McAlister incident has galvanized opposition against Chesa Boudin, and Anne Marie Schubert has largely been untouched by two mass shootings in a month and an overall crime rate that has soared far faster than either San Francisco or Los Angeles.

This is despite evidence that spending resources on low level and minor offenses is actually counterproductive.

“It’s possible that pulling minor offenders into the criminal justice system—by prosecuting and convicting low-level offenders, or jailing defendants while they await trial—could do more harm than good, resulting in those individuals committing more crime in the future, not less,” said Jennifer Doleac, an associate professor of economics and director of the Justice Tech Lab at Texas A&M University, in “Don’t Blame Progressive Prosecutors for Rising Crime.”

Doleac argues that prosecuting petty offenses can potentially take resources away from more serious crimes in a very backlogged system.

One problem is that traditional approaches give prosecutors and other political leaders cover when something goes wrong.

In our recent podcast with Santa Clara University Law Professor David Ball, he talks about what he calls the Peter Parker Problem, namely, “if I let someone out of prison, what happens if he does something bad.”

The one person who might fail if let out on bail or parole.  Ball noted the case of Willie Horton, “he was one of only two people who failed in the furlough program that Michael Dukakis had in 1987.”

He noted, “it was 50 years ago and if there were lots of Willie Hortons, we’d hear someone else’s name besides Willie Horton.”

I flashed immediately to Troy McAlister in San Francisco.  He remains the poster child for what has gone wrong with Chesa Boudin because he was released, and then committed a horrible crime and killed two people in a hit and run.

Nevermind that tons of people have been released early or on zero bail and parole and not had any problems – the handful that do become the reason to end the program, as they did for Willie Horton and the furlough program.

Chesa Boudin knew this could be a problem.  I remember talking to him in December 2019 – prior to him taking office but after he won and he realized that there was a good chance that someone released could do something awful and the only question was how they responded to it.

Unfortunately, the conversation has become too irrational in San Francisco.  And worse yet, the media is feeding into it now.

As Ankita Joshi writes this week, the irony is that the two DA’s being recalled potentially – George Gascon in LA and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, have actually done better on a whole host of measures than DA Anne Marie Schubert of Sacramento, who has become the spokesperson for tough on crime policies, both as DA and now running against AG Rob Bonta.

And yet across the board, Sacramento has done far worse than either city.  It’s homicide rate shot up 31 percent from 2020 to 2021, compared with 17 percent for SF and 12 percent for LA.  Also rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

As David Menschel pointed out in a tweet, “Violence is high and rising in Sacramento — home to “tough on crime” DA Schubert — but you won’t see a deluge of articles asking if she is the cause. Violence is a far lower in San Francisco (and decreasing), yet the press writes 1000 articles blaming it on the reform DA there.”

Josh Kalven argued in a tweet thread, “Sacramento has an “old school” “law and order” district attorney. She leverages all the “tough on crime” tactics (gang enhancements, three strikes, etc.) She is everything that the recall-Boudin folks seem to want in San Francisco.”

However, he points out, “The city of Sacramento just had more homicides in 2021 than in any year since 2006.”  And they have the tenth highest rate of retail theft of any city in the US.

He argues, “If Anne-Marie Schubert were a reform prosecutor, this would all be framed by the media as evidence of her policies not working. Yet she’s now running for state AG as the antidote to Boudin and Gascon. So why doesn’t her “tough on crime” approach get the same scrutiny?”

He offers a few thoughts including the fact that she is “cozy with the police union” and “has never pressed charged against a cop for excessive force.”

And he adds, “because she is perceived as conventionally “tough,” there’s no lack-of-consequences narrative to stoke public anger. After all, the notion that harsh prosecution effectively deters crime is *deeply* embedded in our culture.”

So here we are, Sacramento this weekend suffers its second major mass shooting inside a month, and yet, we hear nothing about Schubert’s policies being tied to it.  You know if this happened in San Francisco or Los Angeles, the fingers would be pointed at their DA.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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1 Comment

  1. Ron Oertel

    the murder rates have gone up far higher in cities with traditional DA’s.

    The reason it isn’t going up faster in San Francisco is because criminals are being priced-out of the city.  They’re among the first to be priced out, especially if federally-subsidized public housing is also being knocked down.  (The latter primarily occurred more than 50 years ago, in the Western Addition.)

    Criminals don’t live in expensive places (other than white-collar criminals). They get forced-out to places like Stockton, parts of Sacramento, etc. They do “visit” expensive places.

    He noted, “it was 50 years ago and if there were lots of Willie Hortons, we’d hear someone else’s name besides Willie Horton.”

    You hear about them all the time.  It’s called recidivism.

    It would be interesting to know if these guys were residents of San Francisco:

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