Since the passing of Proposition 47 in 2014, California has seen an uptick in petty crimes and thievery as potential larcenists are aware they are not subject to stern punishment should they get caught.
The proposition, which was supported by over 4 million California residents, converted a number of crimes such as drug possession and shoplifting from felonies to misdemeanors.
Critics told Fox News that the decision to convert such nonviolent offenses from felonies to a misdemeanor has encouraged thieves to frequently steal merchandise worth less than $950, as shop owners know the police will ignore such minor offenses.
In San Francisco, a 21-year-old mother of two and a former heroin addict told Fox News she has also resorted to shoplifting.
“If my babies need diapers or formula, who is going to get that for me? No one. I have to do it,” she said. “They ain’t out here arresting people for (shoplifting) and everyone knows it.”
Critics have seen Proposition 47, which was backed by the Democratic Party and touted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), complete failure. The measure’s aim in downgrading certain nonviolent offenses from felonies to a misdemeanor was to allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes, according to Fox News.
The consequences: Since the measure was passed in 2014, cities across the Golden State have seen an increase in more organized and extensive criminal operations involving so-called “fencers” — people who knowingly purchase stolen merchandise in order to resell it for profit, Del Seymour, founder of Code Tenderloin, told Fox News.
Seymour said the majority of handovers occur near San Francisco’s City Hall.
“Of course it sends a message,” Seymour said. “They’re doing it right here in the open.”
Seymour argued that the city is stuck in an endless loop in which drug addicts, craving for a fix, would break into stores, steal merchandise, sell it for half the price, and buy more drugs. He argues that the mayor and city officials and have done little to address the city’s drug problem.
“My thing is – and I tell them this all the time – if we end the fencing, prosecute the fencing or do something with the fencing, people won’t have money to buy the drugs,” he said. “Most of the drugs bought are from shoplifting and breaking into cars. If they don’t have a market for those goods, they won’t break into cars or (shoplift) anymore.”
But the problem is not limited only to the San Francisco area. Retailers across the state have complained of an uptick in thefts since Proposition 47 was passed.
“I’ve had situations where I’ve had to call the authorities,” said Boutique owner Mika McCants from Oakland.
Jassi Dhillon, a 7-Eleven owner in San Diego, told NBC 7 that he struggles with shoplifting at all six of his stores “every day, hour by hour.”
“It’s becoming a lifestyle for us now because we can’t do anything much except take the loss,” he said.