Violent crimes in California have risen by more than 15 percent in the past four years, and faulty legislation is to blame, according to retired Judge Steven Bailey, who is seeking to become the state’s attorney general.
In 2017, 178,553 cases of violent crime were reported statewide, up from 151,425 cases in 2014, based on data published by the state Attorney General’s Office.
Bailey, a Republican, retired from the Superior Court of El Dorado County after 8 1/2 years. He said he took early retirement in order to run for office, because he wants to make California a safer place.
The recent increase in violent crime can be attributed to a series of new laws that softened penalties for some crimes, Bailey told The Epoch Times in an interview.
“It is a matter of human nature. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. For the last many thousand years, human nature hasn’t changed. If you have no consequences, there will be increases in crimes,” Bailey said.
For example, state Proposition 47 decriminalized property crimes, decriminalized drug crimes, and reduced many felonies to misdemeanors, Bailey said.
Approved by voters in 2014, Prop. 47 sets $950 as the upper limit for categorizing crimes as misdemeanors, including shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, check forgery, writing bad checks, and the personal use of most illegal drugs.
Because the threshold between a misdemeanor and a felony is $950, Bailey said, “somebody can go to a small business and steal $949 and can be charged with just a misdemeanor.
“They can go next door to do the same thing, and next door to do the same thing again. They may get three misdemeanors that might only get them 60 days, or maybe only 30 days, in custody.”
“How many Mom and Pop stores can afford to lose $949 every single day and still stay in business?” he asked.
“That’s an incentive to go out to commit crimes. When you incentivize the committing of crimes, you are going to get an increase in crimes,” said Bailey. “What we ended up with is a whole new class of victims.”
Bailey says a few other laws have resulted in increases in crime.
Proposition 57, approved by voters in 2016, resulted in increased chances for parole for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes, while Prop. 36, approved in 2012, resulted in 3,000 convicted felons becoming eligible to petition the courts for a new, reduced sentence.
Assembly Bill 109, passed by the legislature in 2011, reclassified a number of felons to be housed in county facilities rather than state prisons. When criminals from state prisons were shifted to county jails, “criminals who previously populated the county jail got kicked to the streets, to commit new and more serious crimes,” Bailey said.
If elected, Bailey wants to focus on getting gangs and human traffickers off the streets, and send them to prison. He says a top priority will be taking guns out of the hands of convicted felons.
Bailey received 24.5 percent of the votes in California’s “jungle” primary, in which candidates from all parties compete against one another. In the general election, he’ll face incumbent Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who won 45 percent of the primary vote.