What Happens in California, Stays in Vegas

 
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Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

On November 4, 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47. You can read all about it here, but the main points are that it downgrades some (drug-related) felonies to misdemeanors and lets thousands out of California’s prisons and jails. Liberals who decry mass incarceration and those who fight the “Prison-Industrial Complex” were, of course, thrilled.

To be fair, some of support behind efforts like Prop 47 is bi-partisan:

“Releasing some nonviolent offenders is the smart thing to do,” said Newt Gingrich, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate, explaining the conservative perspective.

“We cannot incarcerate our way out of a drug problem,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), explaining the libertarian perspective.

“It is abundantly clear that America needs a new strategy,” President Obama had said, in a speech about the failures of mass incarceration

Now, the question for President Barack Obama and all who support initiatives like Prop 47, is “What happens next?”

One year after Prop 47 passed, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled “Unintended consequences of Prop. 47 pose challenge for criminal justice system” that extensively covered the pros and cons of Prop 47. Some examples:

Pro:

Lenore Anderson, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice and an author of the measure, said courts and law enforcement agencies need to adjust to the new landscape by innovating — for example, by funneling offenders into treatment before they even see a judge.

Misdemeanors, which can carry one-year sentences, can be used in the same carrot-and-stick way as felonies, she said.

“Proposition 47 is working,” Anderson said. “It’s reducing the state prison population, it’s giving people second chances and it’s saving state money that has never been saved before.”

Con:

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell is among the law enforcement officials who believe that Proposition 47 has led to more crime while forcing fewer addicts into treatment.

“We’ve removed the disincentive, but we haven’t created a meaningful incentive,” McDonnell said in an interview last week. “We’re putting the people we’re trying to help in a position where we can’t help them.”

The article continues:

Sheriff’s deputies are sometimes passing up narcotics arrests altogether, since it can take hours to book a suspect they believe is unlikely to incur much of a penalty. Narcotics arrests by sheriff’s deputies are down 30% from a year ago, despite McDonnell’s orders to his deputies to keep making arrests.

At the same time, areas of Los Angeles County patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department have seen property crime climb nearly 8% from last year. Auto thefts alone are up over 20%. Sheriff’s officials say there is a link between drug and property crimes as some addicts steal to support their habits.

Statewide, property crime has increased in nine of California’s 10 largest cities this year, a Times review found. Violent crime has increased in all 10.

That was from 2015. This year, you can add another sheriff who thinks Prop 47 is the cause for a spike in crime. In Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

On March 31st, The Las Vegas Sun wrote “Sheriff Links Las Vegas Crime Hike to California Law to Reduce Prison Crowding:”

Depopulation in California jails and gang members moving to the Las Vegas Valley might be contributing to the rise in violent crime, according to Metro Police Sheriff Joseph Lombardo.

There’s a “plethora” of reasons why the valley might be experiencing a hike, Lombardo said during an editorial meeting with the Las Vegas Sun, but Metro has had an increase of interactions with California gang members during arrests and investigations.

“That influx is directly related to, I believe, the depopulation of the prison system in California,” he said.

This can be traced back to Proposition 47, a California ballot initiative turned into law November 2014, Lombardo said.

The article goes on to say:

In Southern Nevada, violent crime in Metro Police’s jurisdiction is up about 22 percent so far this year, according to stats provided by the department.

From Jan. 1 to Saturday, Metro investigated 37 homicides, a 68 percent increase compared to the same time last year.

Investigations involving sexual assault, robberies and assault with a deadly weapon are also each up about 20 percent.

To combat the increase, Metro in a “violent crime initiative” has tasked its plainclothes detectives to suit up and patrol the streets on two-week deployment cycles, Lombardo said.

This means that at any time there is an influx of about 70 detectives on the streets, creating an omnipresence that has showed results, according to Lombardo.

Though the data might be “short-lived,” Lombardo said, homicides and robberies decreased since the initiative’s inception about two weeks ago.

On April 26th, the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote that “Spike in Fatal Shootings Over Past Weekend in Las Vegas Valley Spells Troubling Trend:”

Sherri Ficklin’s 24-year-old nephew was shot dead just after midnight Sunday — one of five fatal shootings the valley saw last weekend.

But as she gathered with friends and family Sunday night to mourn Javarrious Eequinn Brown, they couldn’t even grieve in peace; a few shooters ignited the vigil in gunfire as the group lit candles near Pecos Road and Washington Avenue, sending people running and promptly ending the event.

The level of violence Ficklin experienced was echoed throughout the valley this past weekend, which marked a 100 percent increase in homicides compared with that time last year. As of Saturday, Las Vegas police were investigating 56 homicides, compared with 28 as of the same date a year ago.

The most violent of incidents last weekend happened early Saturday at the Hollywood Recreation Center, just a block away from Harney Middle School. The center exploded in 50 rounds of gunfire after a fight about 3:30 a.m., and police said the aftermath left 15-year-old Barboza dead, four others injured from either stab or gunshot wounds, and one juvenile arrested.

Almost everyone involved was a teenager, police said.

On Wednesday morning, Sheriff Joe Lombardo held a press conference to address the recent spike in violent crime and to reassure a frightened Las Vegas that his department was doing all they could do to combat the crime wave. Reporters at the press conference noted that Lombardo his remarks that much of the crime can be traced back to California and Prop 47.

Las Vegas is certainly not alone in suffering the effects of a weak California justice system, but its suffering is severe, unfair, and completely unnecessary. There are arguments for releasing some low-level offenders from jails, but Prop 47 let way too many genuine hard cases out of prison and put them back on the street.

Las Vegas is one of America’s biggest travel destinations, and for good reason. It’s an amazing city, filled with experiences unmatched anywhere else in the world. But because of its predominant industry, the city is magnet for attracting criminals from all over the United States.

Lately, however, California’s magnet has proved even stronger, attracting many former prisoners who’ve brought violent crime with them. One can only hope that Sheriff Joe Lombardo and his team can find ways to fight back and protect Las Vegas from this scourge.

In the meantime, everyone needs to reevaluate measures like Prop 47 and other efforts to reduce prison populations. If governments are going to release people, they better make damn sure it’s the right people, the lowest-level offenders. No one can stop all recidivism, but it’s apparent that more can be done to at least try.

There are 12 comments.

  1. Victor Tango Kilo Member

    Genuine Criminal Justice reform could be beneficial. Unfortunately, “Criminal Justice Reform” is just a code for opening up the jails and letting criminals loose for political reasons. Much like “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” is code for legalizing past and future illegal immigration.

    • #1
    • April 28, 2016, at 7:19 AM PDT
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  2. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Cameron Gray: In the meantime, everyone needs to reevaluate measures like Prop 47 and other efforts to reduce prison populations. If governments are going to release people, they better make damn sure it’s the right people, the lowest-level offenders. No one can stop all recidivism, but it’s apparent that more can be done to at least try.

    If the goal is simply to reduce prison populations then the only way to do that is to just let prisoners out, consequences be damned. Since liberals get to feel better about themselves for having done something, mission accomplished.

    As far as the “lowest-level offenders” goes, how do we even know? The way our criminal administration system works (it can’t honestly be called a justice system any longer) the charges for which criminals are serving time bear only a moderate resemblance to their crimes.

    • #2
    • April 28, 2016, at 8:04 AM PDT
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  3. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    A classic “devil’s in the details” sort of move. I wholeheartedly agree that downgrading some drug felonies to misdemeanours is a good move. The question becomes “which ones?”

    Lucky for me, that’s a question for California voters to decide.

    • #3
    • April 28, 2016, at 8:19 AM PDT
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  4. J Climacus Member

    Given California’s financial problems, I suppose one way to deal with them is to (effectively) export their prison population to Nevada. Well done.

    • #4
    • April 28, 2016, at 9:27 AM PDT
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  5. Dan Hanson Thatcher

    Is there any hard evidence that the spike in violence is caused by the prison releases? Surely there must be statistics showing how many people who have been arrested were released due to the bill?

    I would have assumed that those released were non-violent drug users, not gang bangers and dealers. Before we condemn the program, I think we need more than the gut feeling of a sheriff to go on.

    • #5
    • April 28, 2016, at 9:50 AM PDT
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  6. Austin Murrey Inactive

    Are you telling me that decriminalizing drug use might lead to an increase in crimes against property and crimes against persons?!

    Well I never!

    • #6
    • April 28, 2016, at 9:53 AM PDT
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  7. zepplinmike Inactive

    If you have a black market for drugs, and your only response is to reduce legal disincentives to buying and selling those drugs, you’re inevitably going to see the black market grow and all the negative consequences that come with that.

    I am for the legalization of all drugs, but mere decriminalization as a half-measure towards that probably does more harm than good. Full legalization eliminates or drastically reduces the black market, while decriminalization is a boon to it.

    • #7
    • April 28, 2016, at 10:15 AM PDT
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  8. Old Bathos Member

    Maybe some cause and effect issues here.

    1) As a society we do a lousy an increasingly job of character formation, social integration and establishing common behavioral norms.

    2) Badly formed persons are more likely to abuse drugs, alcohol and otherwise behave badly. In Venn diagrams they are probably barely distinguishable from substance abusers.

    3) Strict drug laws provide a pretext to round up the badly formed and keep them off the streets.

    4) If we lift or stop enforcing drug laws, the ill-formed will break, steal and violate more because they have increased opportunities to do so.

    Therefore, 5) if we are going to legalize (or ignore) drug use, we need to simultaneously impose Giulianni-like broken-window law levels of law enforcement for all other criminal activity or else 1970s-like chaos will ensue.

    • #8
    • April 28, 2016, at 10:48 AM PDT
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  9. Dad Dog Member

    Dan Hanson: Is there any hard evidence that the spike in violence is caused by the prison releases?

    I’m a prosecutor in Southern California. I am not aware, at this point, of any longitudinal studies regarding Prop. 47 releases/decline-to-arrest vis-a-vis the rise in crime.

    However, there is an absolute, one-to-one correlation in the timing of Prop. 47’s effective date vis-à-vis this increase in crimes, which has occurred across the state, including my jurisdiction. That’s either:

    1. just a coincidence
    2. cause and effect
    • #9
    • April 28, 2016, at 11:09 AM PDT
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  10. Austin Murrey Inactive

    Dad Dog:

    Dan Hanson: Is there any hard evidence that the spike in violence is caused by the prison releases?

    I’m a prosecutor in Southern California. I am not aware, at this point, of any longitudinal studies regarding Prop. 47 releases/decline-to-arrest vis-a-vis the rise in crime.

    However, there is an absolute, one-to-one correlation in the timing of Prop. 47’s effective date vis-à-vis this increase in crimes, which has occurred across the state, including my jurisdiction. That’s either:

    1. just a coincidence
    2. cause and effect

    Well as our old friend Auric Goldfinger tells us: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”

    • #10
    • April 28, 2016, at 1:04 PM PDT
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  11. Quietpi Member

    The question now is just who is going to do the study. Most of the entities who are inclined to conduct studies of this nature, and can afford to do so, are the very ones that really, really, don’t want to discover a nexus.

    To those of us “in the business,” the correlation is so painfully obvious we don’t need anybody to tell us.

    • #11
    • April 28, 2016, at 4:32 PM PDT
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  12. Metalheaddoc Member

    Misthiocracy:A classic “devil’s in the details” sort of move. I wholeheartedly agree that downgrading some drug felonies to misdemeanours is a good move. The question becomes “which ones?”

    Lucky for me, that’s a question for California voters to decide.

    I bet the answer is “the black and latino ones”.

    • #12
    • April 28, 2016, at 9:46 PM PDT
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