Crime could become hot issue in 2022

Veteran California political commentator Dan Walters has this column at CalMatters with the above title. The summary reads, “Political reaction to a spate of smash-and-grab retail thefts indicates that crime could be a hot button issue in next year’s California elections.” Walters notes:

“The current governor, Gavin Newsom, has largely continued [previous Governor Jerry] Brown’s [soft] policies, unilaterally suspending the execution of murderers and proposing to shut down some prisons. It was a bit odd, therefore, to see Newsom publicly denounce lawbreakers last week after a series of smash-and-grab raids on high-end retail outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.”

In the home stretch, Walters has opened up a lead for understatement of the year 2021. A bit odd?

“The level of organized retail theft we are seeing is simply unacceptable,” said Newsom said. “Businesses and customers should feel safe while doing their holiday shopping.”

And you don’t think that the proposition you supported, which reduced stealing just short of a kilobuck to a misdemeanor, had anything to do with it? You don’t think that your prison credit regulation, which lets the relatively few people who do go to state prison out in only a fraction of the time they are sentenced to, has anything to do with it?

San Francisco’s district attorney, Chesa Boudin, who faces a recall election on allegations that he has been too soft on crime, announced felony charges against nine people arrested for retail thefts, saying, “These brazen acts will not be tolerated in San Francisco.”

Why will these brazen acts not be tolerated in San Francisco when you tolerate a host of other brazen acts? By what criterion do you decide which outrageous violations of law will be tolerated? By whether they make a headline in the Chron?

As Newsom was decrying the retail thefts last week, Oakland’s police chief, LeRonne Armstrong, was announcing the city’s 100th homicide of the year and saying, “If this is not a call to everyone in the community that this is a crisis, I don’t know what is.” Oakland had seen 66 homicides by this time last year and 52 in 2019.

The responses by Newsom and Boudin imply that they see political peril in concerns about crime. The situation also emboldens critics of the recent actions to soften criminal penalties, such as Proposition 47 in 2014 and Jerry Brown’s Proposition 57 in 2016.

Indeed. It was tragic the way a funding imbalance frustrated the effort to moderate Proposition 57 in the last election. But maybe people are finally waking up to the point that massive advertising can’t sell nonsense any more.

Sacramento’s district attorney, Anne Marie Schubert, is running against Bonta as a tough-on-crime prosecutor. Boudin’s recall will also be on the ballot, and critics of Los Angeles’ district attorney, George Gascón, are also trying to recall him.

If crime, particularly violent crime, continues its upward swing, it could, indeed, become 2022’s hot button election issue.

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