Endorsement: Reject Prop. 47, the ‘catch-and-release’ law

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson calls it a “public safety risk.”

Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse calls it a “green light for shoplifting.”

Carol Shipley, Stanislaus County’s assistant DA, says “our costs will shoot through the roof.”

We get it. Virtually every law enforcement executive in the region believes Proposition 47 – which would reduce some drug and property crimes to misdemeanors and alter sentencing for others – is a mistake. We agree, and urge a “no” vote on Proposition 47.

Proponents say it will cut into California’s prison population by reducing penalties for nonviolent crimes, including possession of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. But local officials – including the police chiefs of Modesto and Turlock – say it will put criminals back on the street with a proverbial slap on the wrist.

As it is, counties statewide are already struggling with the impact of the state’s first attempt at reducing prison headcounts – the landmark 2011 law called “realignment.” That law shipped enormous numbers of nonviolent prisoners out of state prisons and into county jails.

“One of the scariest parts of the job for every sheriff, is to decide who to let out of jail that day,” Morse said.

And, says Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll, some of these “petty” criminals will offend over and over again. “Think of the burglary victims who have to replace their stuff,” said Carroll, noting there are from 1,000 to 2,000 burglaries in Modesto each year.

Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson is concerned with criminals who target weapons. If a pistol isn’t valued at more than $950, the crime would not be a felony under Proposition 47, meaning the thief would stay in county jail – if there’s room.

“People don’t steal guns to collect them,” said Jackson. “They’re planning to commit another crime (using it). Take out everything else, and that’s enough for me. Considering that one thing, and that’s a deal-killer – you’ve got to vote ‘no.’ ”

It gets worse. Proposition 47 would take discretion out of the hands of prosecutors, meaning criminals would be released to steal repeatedly.

“Kohl’s, Target, every retailer out there is going to get slammed by people who simply come to steal,” Christianson said.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office says Proposition 47 could result in the release of as many as 9,000 inmates now in state prison. It also notes that 220,000 people are convicted of felonies each year in California and if Proposition 47 is enacted, about 40,000 would face misdemeanors rather than felonies. While that would save the state millions, all of the costs of prosecuting and incarcerating those 40,000 criminals would fall on the counties.

Our sheriffs, police chiefs and district attorneys say they can’t handle it. Many of those 40,000 criminals would likely spend no time behind bars.

This proposition has been titled The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act by proponents – a spectacular example of Orwellian “double-speak.” It is anything but safe. We call it catch and release.

Proposition 47 is being pushed by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and two other county district attorneys. The other 55 are virtually united against it. Yes-on-47 is being bankrolled by billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center and other wealthy donors, including Republican Wayne Hughes, who owns Public Storage, and Napster’s Sean Parker.

Local law enforcement doesn’t have such deep-pocket benefactors. So they have to rely on getting the word out by sitting down and talking to newspapers and constituents. When they say we can’t afford this initiative, that it will overwhelm our local cops, prosecutors and jailers, we believe them.

Reject the catch-and-release law for criminals; vote “no” on Proposition 47.