San Francisco and San Jose Democratic Mayors, Gov. Newsom Join GOP-Led Effort to Modify Criminal Justice Reforms in 10-Year-Old Prop. 47

PC: Global Climate Action Summit 2018
Via Wikimedia Commons

By Kaylynn Chang  and The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced this week she is working with Republicans to roll back criminal justice reforms that reduced punishment for crimes of shoplifting and drug possession, according to stories in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Meanwhile, across the Bay last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom—who also has endorsed the Prop. 47 modifications—has announced a partnership with local law enforcement in the Alameda County District to battle crime. 

The governor explained the state has—and will be—deploying more highway patrol officers along with experienced attorneys to increase the enforcement of prosecution over these violent crimes.

The GOP-led campaign to modify the 2014 voter-approved Prop. 47 would, said the Chronicle, increase jail time for people dealing large quantities of fentanyl, make it easier to charge drug dealers with murder and boost incarceration for repeat thefts and organized retail theft.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan also announced his support for the measure, noting he and Breed are “among a wave of Democrats backing efforts to overhaul or reform Proposition 47.”

“Breed said she initially supported Prop. 47 but is now seeing some of the unintended consequences of the measure as the city tries to crack down on illegal drugs and thefts,” the Chronicle wrote, quoting the mayor stating, “Our goal is not to keep people locked up. But when there are no real consequences for crimes that are committed in this city, that’s a real problem.”

The Chronicle said, “Supporters of the proposal she’s backing are collecting signatures to place it on the ballot in November. They must collect more than half a million signatures by April 23. The campaign’s top donors are Walmart, Target, Macy’s and a powerful California prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

“California Republicans have long been the harshest critics of the law and have repeatedly tried to overturn it. They argue it has emboldened people to steal without fear of consequences,” the Chronicle reported, noting the initiative’s chief proponent and campaign chair are both Republicans.

Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) introduced an unsuccessful measure as a state lawmaker to roll back Prop. 47, but at an event last week encouraged people to sign the petition to put the measure on the ballot. Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer and Assembly Member Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, have also announced their support. State Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) contributed $15,000 to the effort, according to campaign finance filings.

“The endorsement of the ballot measure by Mahan and Breed indicates distaste for the law is growing among Democrats,” wrote the Chronicle, adding the mayors join San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, a fellow Democrat who said “That law may have made sense at the time. However, since it was implemented, we’ve seen criminals exploit these reforms.” 

Democrat Newsom has said he backs the measure, arguing “reducing jail time for lower-level offenses would be good for communities and save the state money that could be used for education and other government programs aimed at keeping people from committing crimes in the first place,” the Chronicle wrote.

Newsom reaffirmed his support for the measure last month, noting the $950 threshold for felony theft in the law is actually one of the lowest in the country. Texas, for example, has a minimum felony theft threshold of $2,500.

“Everyone is rushing to reform Prop. 47 to raise the threshold,” Newsom said, explaining that is “not the fundamental issue,” the Chronicle said, reporting the governor insists the state needs to do more to crack down on organized retail theft. 

Newsom, added the Chronicle, is “also taking a more tough-on-crime approach to governing, recently sending more state police officers to crack down on theft and violence in Oakland and drug dealing in San Francisco. 

“Last month, he called for lawmakers to send him legislation to increase punishments for people who steal, including by making it easier for police to arrest suspects even if they did not witness them stealing and imposing harsher penalties for car thieves and people who resell stolen goods. He’s also calling for changes to the law that would make it easier for prosecutors to show a person met the $950 threshold for stolen goods,” the Chronicle reported.

Last week, in a statement, Newsom addressed the need to combat addiction and individuals struggling with substance abuse. Along with enforcement actions, the state in its release claims to continue focusing on initiatives that support education, prevention, and access to treatment and services to ameliorate the severe effects of addiction.

With Oakland’s increase in crime, the governor’s release stated this new model seeks to address public safety issues by creating a working relationship between all aspects of law enforcement to “improve the health, safety, and well-being of the community.”  

The governor’s release also acknowledged Newsom is now sending attorneys from the Judge Advocate General (JAG) to “bolster the effort to prosecute organized retail crime and fentanyl-related drug cases in Alameda County.”

Mirroring the model used in San Francisco last summer, the JAG model includes that “two to three lawyers with deputy district attorney experience will be assigned to specific cases by charging deputies in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.”

The governor’s release also explained Department of Justice teaming up with the governor and Alameda District Attorney Pamela Price to provide legal services and law enforcement expertise in prosecuting significant illegal enterprises. DA Price and California and Attorney General Rob Bonta are also working with Governor Newsom to create a cohesive network between local and state law enforcement.

Price had also released a statement about increasing law enforcement prosecution through bolstering the number and quality of attorneys and judges for Alameda County, adding “this new partnership signals that state and county law enforcement are seizing the moment to work together in aggressively prosecuting people who do harm to folks who live, work, and play in Alameda County.

“Prosecutors in my office are leading that fight every day here locally in Alameda County, and we welcome the assistance offered by Governor Newsom and AG Rob Bonta to increase our capacity to prosecute any additional cases generated by the increased presence of CHP officers in Oakland and Alameda County,” said DA Price.

Also expanding on this “surge” of law enforcement, the governor stated the leading organizations involved—the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the San Francisco Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—have opted for a strategic approach by increasing surveillance and targeted enforcement actions to dismantle the core of fentanyl trafficking networks operating in San Francisco.

According to the governor’s office a couple days before the press release, Newson stated California has already loaned $1.2 million to support legal efforts in Oakland as of August 2023, and the CHP has increased its presence by 900 percent in Oakland, already arresting around 100 suspected criminals and recovering 193 stolen vehicles.

The governor said the CHP will be using advanced “license plate reader technology” to help identify and recover stolen vehicles as well as assigning more visibility of crime through air and ground patrol, this surge of protection hopes to continue disrupting the supply chain of these illegal drugs and stop the cycle of crime by holding those responsible for trafficking fully accountable in court.

About The Author

Kaylynn Chang is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley looking to major in Legal Studies with a strong interest in criminal justice and judicial law. Having years of experence with journalism and leading a publication, she loves to look for the stories of her community, focusing on the hidden voices and intriguing tales of people. She hopes to attend law school in the future, but for now she is looking to gain experience and experiment with her path. A passionate creator, a cafe connoisseur, and a library enthusiast, Kaylynn is always looking for small adventures along with accomplishing big goals.

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