Home Politics CA Ballot Measure Would Put More Thieves, Drug Users In Jail: State

CA Ballot Measure Would Put More Thieves, Drug Users In Jail: State

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The measure, dubbed the Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act, on Tuesday was cleared by state officials to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot after organizers gathered the required number of signatures. (Shutterstock)

 Fed up with rampant retail theft, backers of a new ballot measure say California needs to prosecute more aggressively.

Voters in November are set to decide whether California should more aggressively prosecute shoplifting and drug use as part of a ballot measure that state officials say will result in more people ending up in prison.

Proponents, including law enforcement organizations and major retailers, say the law would help reduce rampant retail theft and tackle homelessness. But opponents point out that not only does the measure lack funding for drug treatment and shelter efforts, it actually could end up taking money away from those services in order to fund increased prison and judicial costs.

The measure, dubbed the Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act, on Tuesday was cleared by state officials to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot after organizers gathered the required number of signatures.

If approved by voters, the measure would roll back some of the changes made by Proposition 47, which reclassified certain felonies as misdemeanors. Most notably, the 2014 law made theft and other property crimes under $950, as well as the personal use of most illegal drugs misdemeanors.

While violent and property crimes have increased statewide since 2020, they remain relatively low compared other the 1980s and 1990s, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Critics of Prop. 47 blame the measure for increasing crime and a host of other issues, despite a lack of conclusive data proving that correlation.

“Our homelessness problem is directly connected to these unintended consequences of Proposition 47, which the voters now desire to correct,” reads the new measure.

The measure would allow for felony charges to be filed against those who commit thefts under $950 as well as for possessing certain drugs, including fentanyl, in cases where the suspect has two prior drug or two prior theft convictions.

Currently, such cases can only be prosecuted as misdemeanors.

Defendants who plead guilty to felony drug possession and complete treatment could have their charges dismissed under the measure.

The measure has earned strong support from the state’s top retailers, including Walmart, Target, Home Depot and 7-Eleven, who are among the campaign’s major funders, Bloomberg reported.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan and the state associations of police chiefs and prosecutors are also among the effort’s backers.

“The Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act will make targeted but impactful changes to our laws around fentanyl and help us tackle the chronic retail theft that hurts our retailers, our workers, and our cities. I fully support this measure and know it will make a meaningful difference for cities across California,” reads a quote from Breed on the campaign’s website.

But critics say the bill’s targeting of Prop. 47 is overly simplistic at best.

“We have to dispense with this simplistic narrative that reforms are what caused the crime and the crime is what causes all of the retail problems that the retail establishments are reporting,” said Charis Kubrin, a professor of Criminology, Law and Society at UC Irvine told the Sacramento Bee.

Additionally, an analysis of the measure by state officials found that increased sentences and incarceration may cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. And to pay for it, the state might have to reduce spending on mental health and substance abuse services, truancy and dropout prevention and victim services, based on requirements in current law.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and other lawmakers oppose the measure in favor of their own competing bill package, arguing that concerns about retail theft can be addressed without altering Prop. 47,the Bee reported.

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