After reading a piece by Summer Lin, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who wrote ‘whether crime in San Francisco is out of control, but that the numbers tell a different story,’ I couldn’t contain my eye-rolling. 

This storyline has been told numerous times, but missing from most articles is the reasoning behind these misleading low data numbers. For example- the definition of “crime” has changed. The internal directives from District Attorneys to plead down and out cases, or refuse to charge suspects, or that police officers sometimes refuse to make arrests.  

California crime comparisons against other states or in previous years don’t tell the story of what our communities face. The numbers may show that crime is down in California compared to the 1990s or ten years ago, but many reporters need to discuss how the definition of a crime changed through the ballot box and State Legislature. 

Here is just one example to highlight the change: 

In 2016, Proposition 57, the so-called “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act,” led by Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Newt Gingrich, numerous labor unions, and the Democratic, Libertarian, and Green Parties, prohibits a District Attorney from the direct filing of charges against a juvenile in adult court, even for violent crimes including homicide, rape, and carjacking. 

Prop 57 also allowed for the early release of convicted criminals. Before Prop 57, convicted criminals serving time for violent crimes were required to do a minimum of 85 percent of their time before being eligible for early release. However, after Prop 57, that number dropped to 50 percent time served.

Proposition 57 also redefined a violent felony by ‘tricking voters,’ and “omitting a definition of non-violent felony.” In essence, voters were purposely kept in the dark on exactly what would constitute as a violent vs. non-violent felony. Afterwards, Jerry Brown’s “campaign reluctantly acknowledged that the definition would be any crime not mentioned in an obscure section of the state Penal Code that lists 23 specific violent offenses.” 

These crimes include trafficking a minor, raping a disabled or unconscious person (even if the criminal gave the victim the date rape drug), and beating your spouse. 

In summary, the politicians and their ads makers found a way to trick the public into supporting that the crimes listed below should not be considered violent

  • vehicular manslaughter
  • human trafficking involving a minor
  • battery with personal infliction of serious bodily injury
  • throwing acid or a flammable substance
  • assault with a deadly weapon
  • assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer or firefighter
  • assault with a deadly weapon by a state prison inmate
  • discharging a firearm at an occupied dwelling, building, vehicle or aircraft
  • rape where the victim is legally incapable of giving consent
  • rape of an unconscious person
  • rape/sodomy/oral copulation of an unconscious person or by use of date rape drugs
  • inflicting corporal injury on a child
  • domestic violence
  • arson of a structure or forest land
  • arson of property
  • solicitation to commit murder
  • grand theft of a firearm
  • any felony involving the personal use of a deadly weapon
  • holding a hostage by a state prison inmate
  • exploding a destructive device or explosive with intent to injure

Former California Democratic State Assemblyman Jim Cooper and current Sacramento Sheriff made the following statement  In opposition to the misleading technicalities of Prop 57: 

Last Thursday, a California Appellate judge ruled that a man originally sentenced to 35 years to life in state prison is now eligible for early release under Proposition 57, the California Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements Initiative.

The felon was convicted of stabbing his girlfriend with a butcher knife, forcibly molesting his 11-year-old niece and gang raping a 17-year-old pregnant teenager.

It pains me to describe these offenses but its imperative that I do – because there is something grossly wrong with current law pertaining to these offenses. Under Proposition 57, the courts have ruled that violent sexual offenders and even a felon that stabbed his girlfriend is considered a non-violent criminal.

This ruling marks the second time in the past year that a court has ruled that pedophiles and rapists will be considered for early release from prison (proponents promised voters this would never happen) under the highly misrepresented Proposition 57.

Summer Lin’s LA Times article misses an important part of the public safety concerns, because it overly relies on numerical data, without considering the nuances of a situation, changes in laws (like Prop 57), or lived experiences by people who live in our communities.