Skip to main content

California Democrat takes aim at law that lowered penalties in effort to combat crime

Source: Washington Examiner

California Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua is introducing a referendum to tackle the growing retail theft epidemic in his state.

The center-left Democrat’s “groundbreaking referendum” will take aim at Proposition 47, a law passed in 2014 that recategorized a number of felonies as misdemeanors.

"Law enforcement can only perform as well as we support them," Villapudua told the Washington Examiner. "That includes with appropriate tools, enforcement regulations, and financial resources."

"As well-intentioned as Prop 47 was, we need to adjust to the reality that it has created in California," Villapudua said. "Businesses, employees, and customers have been put in harm’s way due to today’s aggressive nature of retail theft and the onslaught of incidents. We need to do more to retain our businesses, maintain economic stability, and protect our communities."

“Businesses and the safety of customers are at risk due to the unintended outcomes of Proposition 47,” Villapudua warned in a press release. “We need a multifaceted approach to rein in the onslaught of retail theft across California.”

“I am committed to addressing this in a comprehensive and equitable manner by introducing targeted policy reforms for a safer and more just society,” he said.

The referendum will focus on four main pillars to address specific shortcomings of the 2014 law, according to the press release, which are: cracking down on aggregated theft/repeat offenders, supporting diversion programs for those more likely to commit retail theft, providing discretion for judges, and bringing more power back to the legislature to craft retail theft policy.

The resolution will attempt to jettison the state’s $950 property value threshold for misdemeanors, which “has fueled a market of petty and repeat offenses with zero-to-low accountability.”

When asked what the $950 threshold will be replaced with, if anything, Villapudua described the plan as "a work in progress" and said, "We are continuing to work with stakeholders to consider how we can revise the threshold in a way that provides more accountable, proportional punishments to different situations and levels of retail theft. One of the main focuses will be on the aggregation of retail theft committed over time, rather than in just one instance."

The Stockton Democrat hopes his effort will “hold habitual criminals more accountable for their actions and protect communities from ongoing activities that have shuttered stores.”

The initiative will also support programs that “address root causes of criminal behavior” and will focus on providing pathways to rehabilitation.

Allowing judges to exercise discretion, as proposed by Villapudua’s referendum, will “ensure the punishment best fits the crime based on the situation.”

Villapudua is pushing for a more “balanced and responsive” legislative framework for criminal justice through this referendum, allowing for “ongoing evaluation and adaptation to best serve the needs of Californians.”

“Assemblymember Villapudua invites all interested parties to engage in a constructive dialogue to further refine and strengthen the proposed reform, with the ultimate goal of ensuring a fair, effective, and balanced approach to criminal justice in California,” the press release said.