NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—A signature-gathering effort is underway to increase penalties for repeat smash-and-grab offenders.
Rescue California is leading the anti-theft initiative after witnessing an uprising of theft and leniency of criminal prosecution penalties by law enforcement agencies, according to Interim Chair Anne Dunsmore.
“Politicians are actually responding to the crisis by making it easier on the criminals, and in fact, continuing to release them onto the street,” Dunsmore said at a Jan. 28 online press conference.
The ballot initiative will require 623,000 signatures to be placed on the November ballot, Dunsmore said, adding that she anticipates 800,000 signatures being necessary to submit enough valid signatures.
California lawmakers and voters have approved of laws that hinder the ability to prosecute crimes, such as Proposition 47, according to Dunsmore.
The proposition was passed by voters in 2014, removing the ability for law enforcement to prosecute criminals who steal less than $950 of goods. It further classified theft and drug possession crimes as misdemeanors rather than felonies.
In San Diego County, public safety neighborhoods and cities have been on a “steady decline” due to “bad policy decisions,” according to Vista Police Department Deputy Sheriff Josian O’Neill.
“When we rolled out prop 47 in 2014 … we saw an immediate uptick in violent crime and property cracks throughout the state,” O’Neill said at the press conference.
When O’Neill responds to thefts, he said he knows state law will allow them to roam the streets again without harsh consequences.
“It’s out of control,” Los Angeles bar owner Angela Marsden said at the press conference, adding that she has seen a rise in smash-and-grab retail thefts in her county.
Rescue California will begin signature-gathering efforts by using direct mail, email, and volunteers.
The deadline for the signatures to be turned in to the county registrar is in April.