City of Madera:
CHIEF’S BLOG

January 12, 2017

PROP 47: Fact or Fiction?

To those I had the opportunity to speak with in person…

 

I had criticized the effects of Prop 47 indicating that I would create my next blog on that very subject. Since then, I am seeing more and more articles coming out that point to California cities rise in crime but debate on whether Prop 47 is the actual culprit for such occurrences. I have included two articles for your purview. The first such article, “Fight flares over ‘realignment,’ Prop. 47 effects on crime”, and the second “Crime’s up in Orange County; what’s to blame?” Fairly short reads that both, I hope, set the stage for the information I will share with you. I realize also in my conversations that I am biased and that AB 109 and Prop 47 have tainted my thoughts and perceptions, not necessarily a good thing when maintaining an open mind is a job requirement.

 

So I set out to leave behind the bias and provide you facts so that you can reach your own conclusion. The articles, if you read them, should have provided enough information on AB 109 and Prop 47 that I will not repeat here and move forward on the premise that we all have a working knowledge on what AB 109 and Prop 47 are, and the reason for their existence. In order to set the stage on the effects of these actions I must provide a little history. In 2012 we embarked on a new policing philosophy that was based on the department’s lack of historical impact on crime, the department was experiencing ups and downs, but really achieving no real success in getting a handle on crime. We tackled our inability to deal with crime by implementing a new philosophy. This philosophy culminated in the three tenets of policing in which we institutionalized the concept of community oriented policing:

 

  1. Solving problems, orienting toward crime, not just criminals

  2. Asking citizens to reassert their role in crime reduction and community livability

  3. Being accountable, taking responsibility for the level of crime

 

These tenets began the transformation that would re-prioritize the department’s focus and begin the department/citizen relationship building process. In 2014, two years into the new philosophy, we saw some pretty significant drops in crime and will use 2014 as the year we will make our AB 109/Prop 47 comparison. November of 2014 Prop 47 was approved by voters and went into effect immediately. Throughout 2015 we continued enhancing our philosophy and community outreach. Ask any member of the department what our thoughts were on 2015 and you would get a pretty resounding “it was a good year!”, we felt pretty good about our accomplishments and the things that we were doing in the community. The numbers though provided a different story.

 


CRIME STATISTICS: 2014/2015


HOMICIDERAPEROBBERYAGGRAVATED ASSAULTVIOLENT CRIMEBURGLARYLARCENYMOTOR VEHICLE THEFTPROPERTY CRIMES
20146177221030547210072071686
20153169433444746211353251922

 

In addition to the crime stats, we saw significant increases in the dollar value that was stolen from the citizens of our community. In 2014 we recorded $1,573,594, and in 2015, $2,379,153 in property lost. Doing the math, that is a difference of $805,559. Said in another way, a 51% increase. Another anomaly we discovered most recently, while preparing for next year’s budget, was the decline in our court fines and restitution in the sum of about $64,000. Clearly Prop 47 has impacted our city significantly, or has it? Anecdotally we see an increase in crime, specifically compared to 2014. Perhaps, I hate to admit it, but 2014 may have been the anomaly year? 2015 more closely resembles our crime data from 2010-2012 (data available upon request or found in Annual report).

 

Although there is more supporting information that says Prop 47 is as bad as I perceive it to be… for instance, the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA) ran their own study that supports and is consistent with our 2015 statistics, both violent and property crimes showed increases. On the other hand, California is not the first state to enact such measures. 13 other states have some variation of raising the felony threshold on thefts and possession of controlled substances as misdemeanors. Whereas California raised the threshold to $950, differentiating misdemeanor from felony, some states have a $2,000 threshold. The jury is still out on the impacts in those other states as it is in California on whether changes such as Prop 47 will truly have a deleterious effect on crime.

 

I think the greatest impact will be felt in the reduction of drug possession from felonies to misdemeanors. Why you ask; great question? If you didn’t know Proposition 36, known as the ‘Substance Abuse Crime Prevention Act‘ of 2000 — substituted probation for incarceration — no one ever went to prison for drug possession. Prop 36 held the felony conviction in abeyance in order for the offender to participate in diversion i.e…. drug treatment. Today, under Prop 47, there is no incentive for those convicted of possession, as there is literally no jail time and no stigma of the felony to compel their participation. Nothing is more destructive to an individual, family, or community than the addiction to controlled substances. With no coercive means to get people to participate in drug treatment we are seeing more and more individuals trapped by addiction.

 

In conclusion, “property lost” value is up, violent and property crime is up, court fines and restitution is down, Prop 47 provides a disincentive for drug treatment — therefore greater addiction, up… Prop 47 Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act…. You decide? It doesn’t end here; with the passage of Prop 57, we will face the third attack on our liberty, first AB 109, then Prop 47 and now the passage of the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016”.… which releases violent felons back into our community… More to follow!!

 

Steve Frazier
Chief of Police