SAN FRANCISCO (NewsNation Now) — Video of smash-and-grab robberies of high-profile jewelry and boutique stores has been shared in the news and on social media in recent weeks, but one police officer says the problem is deeper and goes back farther.
“This has been happening for a while now,” Lt. Tracy McCray with the San Francisco Police Department said on “On Balance with Leland Vittert” on Tuesday. “And you’re now starting to get the upfront view of it, because everybody’s out (with) their phones … just waiting for it to happen.”
McCray is among several law enforcement leaders who blame a 2014 statewide ballot referendum, Proposition 47. It reduced some felonies to misdemeanors, and raised the bar for felony theft to $950. Interest groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, backed the proposition, and it passed with 60% of the vote.
McCray is not a fan.
The ACLU wanted “to let everyone out of jail, but there’s no game plan for what you do with these people once they are released,” McCray said. “So how do you stop them from going back to their own life?”
A request for comment from the ACLU on Tuesday night was not immediately returned.
“The ACLU has really taken away from public safety,” McCray said. “They’ve destroyed it. There is no public safety.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta separately argued last week that police and prosecutors still have the legal tools to go after such perpetrators, and Newsom called out some local officials he said choose not to do so.
“It’s patently false to assert that we have enough laws on the books that are fixing this problem, because it’s obviously not going away and won’t be going away,” countered John Kabateck, director of the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Last Thursday, Los Angeles police announced 14 people were arrested in connection with 11 recent smash-and-grab robberies.
Will Matthews, a spokesman for Californians for Safety and Justice, which sponsored Proposition 47, cited penal code sections for receiving stolen property, organized retail theft, conspiracy, grand theft or aggregating crimes that he said provide “multiple avenues” for filing more serious charges.
“Unfortunately, too many of our law enforcement leaders … are choosing to play a blame game,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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