Businesses Back Bill That Plays Tough On Small-Time Crimes

California retailers are rallying behind a new ballot initiative that aims to increase punishments for drug and property crimes in response to an alarming increase in these types of infractions. The state of California passed a progressive measure in 2014 that reduced the severity of sentences for similar offenses. But now that crime is on the rise, stores are demanding that this liberal policy be reversed. To send a clear message to criminals that their acts will have serious repercussions, the Tougher Penalties for Drug Dealers and Thieves Act, a proposed ballot measure, seeks to reclassify certain offenses as felonies. This reclassification would allow for harsher sentences, including longer prison terms.

The increasing drug and property crime rates in California have long been a significant concern for residents and companies alike. There has been an upsurge in theft and organized retail crimes, which have hit retailers especially hard. Retailers lose an unsustainable amount of money because of these crimes; consumers pay more and feel less safe in the community.

A number of minor crimes were downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors after California voters passed Proposition 47 in 2014. Some unforeseen effects have resulted from the proposal’s good intentions, which were to alleviate jail overcrowding and reinvest in rehabilitation programs. As a result of the sentencing disparity, criminals feel empowered to take advantage of the lowered punishments.

The Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act is a new ballot measure that retailers are now supporting. It aims to reclassify these crimes as felonies, reversing the impacts of Proposition 47. There has been a 13.3% rise in the commercial robbery rate in California after the inauguration of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019. Shoplifting surged by 28.7 percent in 2022, according to the same research; the San Francisco Bay region had particularly steep rises.

Critics argue that this provision of the California Constitution allows convicted misdemeanors to reoffend while out on bond, as it allows for their release without restrictions before to trial unless the court determines that they pose a danger to public safety. Proponents of elevating the charges to the felony level argue that it would prevent criminal behavior by allowing courts to impose stricter bail and release terms on defendants.