The governor is asking for a legislative package to deal with crimes like retail theft and auto burglaries, but doesn’t want to reconsider a contentious voter-passed initiative.
By Jeremy B. White
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is seeking legislation to crack down on property crimes while stopping short of asking voters to reconsider Proposition 47, a politically volatile ballot initiative that downgraded sentencing nearly a decade ago.
Newsom is laying out his priorities at a politically fraught moment for Democrats navigating rising concerns about public safety, exacerbated by highly visible incidents of people making off with merchandise. Elected officials who have backed lighter sentencing in an effort to reduce mass incarceration are looking for ways to address crime without abandoning a yearslong movement away from lengthy prison terms.
Those dynamics have amplified calls to roll back Prop 47, a 2014 ballot measure that reduced drug and property crimes to misdemeanors and drew support from a cross-section of California Democrats, including Newsom. But the Democratic governor is resisting calls to revisit the initiative, instead embracing a mix of new penalties and bills that solidify existing law.
Newsom is asking lawmakers to create new categories of crimes targeting “professional” offenders who have stolen property or burglarized vehicles with the intent to resell them and to enhance penalties for people who resell large amounts of stolen goods. He also wants to clarify existing powers to arrest retail thieves and aggregate separate offenses, making permanent a law allowing charges for organized retail crime.