Commentary: Repeal initiative that is putting criminals back on our streets

Any resident who spends a great amount of time walking, talking and meeting the community and our police officers will learn much just by listening.

It is not a surprise to hear that repeat criminal offenders are being recycled and crime will increase. Calls for drug possession and sales, theft, domestic abuse and assault are keeping us busy night and day, and there is one big reason why.

And that reason is Proposition 47.

In November 2014, the voters of California passed Proposition 47, otherwise known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” under the guise that it would ease prison overcrowding and allow those cost savings to go back to K-12 schools and drug-addiction reform programs. If there was ever a more misleading title for a proposition, I don’t know what it could be.

The law enforcement community quickly saw Proposition 47 for what it was. They warned it was bad policy, since it reduced many serious crimes to misdemeanors. Crimes such as stealing a handgun valued at less than $950 would no longer get you a felony conviction.

In fact, any theft less than $950 is no longer considered commercial burglary but is now defined as shoplifting, which is a misdemeanor. Those who commit forgery also have that $950 threshold from which they can operate and not face a felony charge.

If that weren’t bad enough, the measure allowed convicted felons who were already in prison to have their convictions reduced to misdemeanors and the chance to have their sentencing reduced as well.

So what is the result? Crime is skyrocketing not only in Orange County but throughout the state as criminals who otherwise would be locked up are now almost immediately being sent back onto the streets to commit further crimes.

In one particular instance in Costa Mesa, a repeat felon asked one of our officers to keep his backpack for three days until he was released.

The number of defendants participating in drug court rehabilitation programs is dropping statewide as well, in some cases by more than 50%. The defendants now realize there is no reason to be reformed if you don’t face legal consequences.

Our state legislative majority is completely out of touch.

Police officers say drug arrests are hardly worth the time anymore because the offenders will be right back on the streets.

As someone who regularly walks the streets of our great city, I know there is no such thing as victimless crimes. Drug addicts toss their used needles in our city parks, and they steal from hard-working citizens to support their habits.

Those who are victims of petty theft can rest assured they are not alone. Chances are the perpetrator has moved on to other victims as well.

It is time we end this misleading experiment.

I fully support our rank-and-file police officers and want them to have the tools they need to get criminals off the streets and keep our communities safe. To accomplish that, I call on elected leaders throughout California to join me and ask that Proposition 47 be repealed or dramatically altered.

While I acknowledge the price to incarcerate low-level offenders is high and needs to be addressed in some way, the cost of letting those same offenders prey on our citizens is much higher and needs to stop.

STEPHEN MENSINGER is the mayor of Costa Mesa.