SLO County DA pushing for November ballot measure to change Prop 47

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jun 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-14 20:38:36-04

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney said Thursday that a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California backs up his claim that Proposition 47, which went into effect in 2014 after being approved by voters, has created an increase in property crimes in the area.

The report released Monday states that Proposition 47, which reformed sentencing for less serious non-violent offenses, has contributed to the rise in property thefts in California. The state experienced a 9 percent increase in larceny since 2014, according to the report.

District Attorney Dan Dow said Thursday he believes the proposition has directly influenced his caseload, which increased overall by 32 percent from 2014.

"We’ve had a very significant increase in crime across the board in our county," Dow said.

The PPIC report did not find a link between Proposition 47 and violent crime.

The City of San Luis Obispo experienced a 31 percent increase in property crimes from 2014 to 2016, according to city crime data.

The trend continued to soar until 2017, when the city council announced the overall crime rate had decreased by 13 percent.

According to city crime data, Santa Maria has seen a notable decrease in property crimes, dropping from 3,056 reports in 2014 to 2,525 in 2017.

A crime report from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office showed an increase in property crime from 2015 to 2016.

Dow said the biggest impact of increased property crime is on local businesses.

"(Retailers) have lost billions of dollars," Dow claimed. "We’ve told our society it’s not important, not a big deal if you steal from a business."

Dow said retailers are supporting his effort to get an initiative on the November ballot that would roll back certain components of Proposition 47, specifically the elements that prevent prosecutors and judges from their own discretion.

"(The initiative would) give us discretion to charge felony on third serial theft that someone commits," Dow said.

But Patricia Ashbaugh, a San Luis Obispo County public defender, disagreed with Dow’s planned initiative, saying it’s not in the best interest of California.

She said state dollars should be spent on treatment, not incarceration.

Ashbaugh argues that the answer to this increase in property crimes is addressing addiction issues, which she believes fuels thefts.

But Dow said offenders must also fear consequences.

"They’re continuing to commit crimes because they know they will just get a slap on the wrist," Dow said.

The report indicated that reduced recidivism rates in California, which fell nearly two percent since 2014, may be linked to Proposition 47.

But Dow and Ashbaugh agreed it may be too early to know the true impact of the reform.