Will the Mayor and Police Chief Eat Crow for Past Predictions Anytime Soon?
By Doug Porter
Last week the Mayor of San Diego’s media machine began beating the drum following the release of crime statistics for the first four months of 2017. Visitors should feel safer knowing the crime rate was the lowest it’s been since 1990, we were told.
“As we head into peak travel season, San Diegans and visitors alike can rest assured that our city remains one of the safest in America thanks to the tireless efforts of our police officers,” according to Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “This report shows that our officers are doing an incredible job by protecting the public and forging bonds with residents in all neighborhoods.”
Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman trotted out before the cameras to take credit or her department’s achievements, even as she reminded the press about the major recruiting and retention issues that SDPD has been facing.
How good was the news? Overall violent crime was 4.6% lower, while property crimes were down by 10.5%, according to the police. This drop follows last year’s drop to the 2nd-lowest in 47 years.
You only need to look back a couple of years to understand why both the fluffery and the numbers are significant.
After a couple of decades of ‘lock em up and throw away the key’ California voters overwhelmingly supported a statewide measure in 2014 lowering the penalties for many crimes.
Proposition 47 was, according to a Californians for Safety and Justice 2015 report:
The first time voters have pulled the lever to change multiple sections of a state penal code for the explicit purpose of reducing incarceration; the first time voters have taken money out of the state prisons budget for prevention and treatment; and the first time people have been given the opportunity to change old criminal records and reduce the collateral consequences of felony convictions – at a scale unseen in our nation’s history
The law enforcement industrial complex made dire predictions about what was going to happen under Proposition 47. The legislative director for the California State Sheriffs’ Association said the lower punishments would encourage criminals.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, then owned by ‘Papa’ Doug Manchester, went so far as to predict a “troubling new wave of crime” six months after the law.
This new public policy will be responsible for the early release of thousands of criminals now behind prison bars, including some serving life sentences under the state’s three-strikes law. Thousands more who commit new crimes, and who would have faced prison or jail time before Proposition 47, will now continue to walk the streets.
Mayor Faulconer was the statewide chair for No on Proposition 47.
“I do not support this in any way, shape or form,” she said in an interview with the U-T editorial page editor. “It will require the release of thousands of dangerous inmates.
“They talk about 10,000 felons [who would be] eligible for early release. It would be virtually mandated and would prevent judges from blocking the early release of prisoners except in really very rare cases.”
and after its passage (November 4, 2015, UT op-ed)
Looking at our crime statistics for the city of San Diego, since the passage of Prop. 47, we have seen more than an 8 percent increase in violent crime and more than a 7 percent increase in opportunity-related theft crimes. Obviously, crime trends fluctuate over time, but it would be naïve to dismiss the impact of Prop. 47…
…Proposition 47 may have been well-intentioned, but has simply missed the mark. Our community, whom we so proudly serve, deserves better.
Already forgotten are the twin arguments proffered by opponents about date-rape drugs on every street corner and burglars googling the street value of handguns prior to stealing them to beat the $950 threshold from misdemeanor to felony offense.
The reality is that crime has gone both up and down since 2014. There doesn’t seem to be much connection to Prop 47, other than taxpayer savings and a slight easing of the war on people of color at the heart of too much of the operations of the criminal justice ‘system.’
And who could forget the original doom and gloom prophecies made prior to the first round of easing the state’s prison population? Via LA Weekly:
The same law-and-order crowd said California’s late-2011 prison realignment, which sent 27,000 non-serious, nonviolent or non–sex offenders to shorter stints in county jails, would unleash a torrent of crime. “Violent crime rates remain unaffected by realignment,” according to a Public Policy Institute of California report earlier this year.
Last year, Mayor Faulconer took the lead in opposing yet another step back from the war on crime, namely Proposition 57, Gov. Jerry Brown’s mea culpa for the tough on crime laws passed during his first terms as Governor.
“One of the key unintended consequences was the removal of incentives for inmates to improve themselves, to refrain from gang activity, using narcotics, otherwise misbehaving. Nothing that would give them the reward of turning their life around.”
San Diego’s Mayor announced his opposition at a mid-July press conference, telling the Union-Tribune:
“Our neighborhoods don’t deserve a grand experiment that puts public safety and innocent citizens at risk,” Faulconer said. “Finding ways to reduce our prison population and encourage convicts to become productive members of society is something that we all believe is important, but it has to be done in a way that does not make us less safe as a society.”
California voters once again didn’t buy the fear mongering, approving it by just short of a two to one margin.
There is one category of crime that is up–California jurisdictions reported a 10.4% statewide increase in hate crimes last year. According to the FBI, hate crimes based on religious affiliation increased in both the City and County of San Diego in 2015.
Thanks! A shout out to Martha Sullivan, whose Facebook post inspired today’s column.
What are we doing about domestic terrorism? In the wake of a Maryland student dying at the hands of a white supremacist and the twin deaths of people daring to stand up to anti-Muslim harassment in Portland, this seems like a fair question.
From the Washington Post, reporting on the Anti-Defamation League’s new report, “A Dark & Constant Rage: 25 Years of Right-Wing Terrorism in the United States,
The ADL analyzed 150 terrorist acts in the United States that were committed, attempted or plotted by right-wing extremists. “More than 800 people were killed or injured in these attacks,” the ADL said, noting that the attacks “surged during the mid-to-late 1990s and again starting in 2009” — the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency.
The also looked at other acts of violence and determined that “from 2007 to 2016, a range of domestic extremists of all kinds were responsible for the deaths of at least 372 people across the country. Seventy-four percent of these murders came at the hands of right-wing extremists such as white supremacists, sovereign citizens and militia adherents.”
And, reported the ADL, the hate and terror mongers choose their marks carefully: Jews, Muslims and — the most common racial target — African Americans.
RIP to the two veterans murdered by white supremacists over the last week. Right-wing extremism is stealing our compatriots’ lives pic.twitter.com/XuJaHCEOc2
— DSA Veterans 🌹 (@DSAVeterans) May 28, 2017
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