Advocates Claim ‘Safer California Plan’ Gaining Momentum in California Legislature Ahead of Special Committee Hearings 

By Gabriela Rose and Audrey Sawyer

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California State Senate’s “Safer California Plan,” a bipartisan legislative effort to address the fentanyl crisis and combat retail theft and community based crime, is gaining significant support as it approaches upcoming crucial stages, with hearings for the bills ongoing this week, said the bill’s sponsors.

Included in the media statement from Mike Maguire (D-North Coast), Senate President Pro Tempore, is a note that California National Guard-supported operations had seized over one million fentanyl pills in the state. 592,900 pills were seized from the state’s port of entry. In February, law enforcement agencies reported that the $267 million investment made in 2023 to combat organized retail crime.

The package, said Maguire, includes 14 bills that focus on the deterrence and prosecution of retail crimes and attempt to manage the ongoing fentanyl crisis through prevention and treatment.

The bills that were heard at the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday include SB 1416, which increases penalties on professional organized retail theft in particularly significant large-scale resale schemes and SB 1242, which requires courts to impose higher penalties on criminals who create fires in order to engage in retail theft.

On April 10, the Senate Health Committee will hear bills aiming to fight California’s fentanyl crisis through comprehensive criminal justice and treatment reform.

SB 1319 expedites the approval of projects that expand the continuum of substance use disorder facilities, and SB 910, which establishes statewide standards used by collaborative courts to improve programming, drug testing, and medication-assisted treatment for individuals moving through the criminal justice system.

Sen. McGuire explains, “The Safer California plan is gaining major momentum across the Golden State – folks know it will help tackle the fentanyl crisis through prevention and treatment, and help curb retail crime in our communities.”

Darren Arakawa, president of the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association advocated for the package, saying, “The association supports the (Senate’s) efforts to introduce bipartisan legislation to mitigate the impacts of fentanyl, especially in the light of rising death rate at the hands of fentanyl poisoning. The Senate’s plan to help provide law enforcement the tools necessary to properly address organized retail theft is imperative to maintain the health of communities and our retail business partners.”

Added Arakawa, “I want to emphasize to the Senate that a multi-modal approach be taken (which would include, but not be limited to): hold offenders accountable to the fullest extent of the law, addressing repeat offenders, and provide resources to the business community who are victimized.”

Chief Kelly M. Vernon, president of the Chief Probation Officers of California and the Chief Probation Officer in Tulare County Probation, said, “On behalf of the Chief Probation officers of California (CPOC), we write to offer our support of the concepts outlined in the bipartisan legislative package (Working Together For A Safer California) around key policy areas to address the crises around fentanyl and retail theft.

“We support the Senate’s efforts to protect our community members. As the on-the-ground connectors and experts in community safety, we look forward to being a part of the continued discussions with the Senate, Assembly, and Administration to work towards meaningful and comprehensive solutions to the retail theft and fentanyl crises in a way that supports successful and safe re-entry.”

An officer from the Long Beach Police Officers Association praised the package, noting, “We would like to announce our support for the Senate’s Working Together For A Safer California plan. We are honored to partner with you to work towards keeping California and its communities safe.”

Other groups supporting the plan include Smart Justice California, Californians for Safety And Justice, California Police Chiefs Association, California Professional Firefighters, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna and Contra Costa County District Attorney Diane Becton.

About The Author

Audrey is a senior at UC San Diego majoring in Political Science (Comparative Politics emphasis). After graduation, Audrey plans on attending graduate school and is considering becoming a public defender.

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