Violence and Crime in California: What’s the Message?

By The Reader's Turn
The Reader's Turn
The Reader's Turn
June 3, 2022 Updated: June 3, 2022

School shootings, gun violence, police misconduct, and catch-release are all headlines and issues that are impacting our communities and families in California. These are not issues that are happening thousands of miles away to people we do not know, but they are happening here on our streets and sometimes in our very backyards.

What do we do to address these growing issues of public safety? We need our children to be safe at school, we need to be safe while we go to work, and we need to know that criminals are kept in check by trustworthy law enforcement individuals.

If you are listening and reading the policy proposals that are coming out of Sacramento by the majority party, the messages are confusing and sometimes counteract each other. When the message is about a single issue the message is clear and even sensible to a point, but when taken together these ideas fight and send mixed signals to our communities.

To address school shootings, we are told we need to pass strict gun control and remove the choices and ability of people to lawfully obtain a firearm; but to suggest adding enhancements to penalties for breaking these gun laws is racist to low income communities. The same powers pressing this policy are also pressing the policy that threats made against schools and school personnel cannot be reported to law enforcement, because these reports tend to impact low income communities.

To address the rise in crime and gun violence, we pass removal of criminal enhancements and additionally place higher burdens on our District Attorneys to level charges—making most crimes a catch and release situation with no real penalty. The same powers pressing this policy are also pressing policies that require our counties to immediately release on their own recognizance the lowest level offenders to keep our inmate populations down.

Finally, we face situations of police encounters with growing criticism. Where before we used to give a greater benefit of the doubt, now we have created a guilty until proven innocent presumption. Where public opinion is formed before the evidence is gathered and guilt is applied before a jury is selected. To address these few situations of misconduct, we pass stricter laws on our law enforcement and threaten to defund them more than they already are; but to suggest any increase in funding for training and education is to support police violence in our communities.

So on the one hand we are to believe that stricter gun laws will keep our children safer, but those laws are not allowed to have increased penalties for lawbreakers, and we are not allowed to treat threats to schools seriously.

We are told to believe that making it harder to lock someone up in jail for committing crimes in our communities will keep us safe, but also pass laws requiring our counties to release those same offenders to keep our incarceration numbers down.

We are told to believe that a super minority of our law enforcement engagements are evidence of a systemic problem, but we are not willing to give them the resources and funding to better train and equip their ranks.

Most of us remember not too long ago when California used to be the sunshine state, with safe streets, low crime, and great schools. How could we have slid so far and so fast in such a bad way? Maybe we need only to look at the mixed and counteractive messaging coming from Sacramento to understand. Maybe instead of being focused on single-issue talking points, we should be looking at the whole picture that we as Californians are facing.