On April 2, the Clovis City Council’s light agenda included brief discussion on one serious topic.
In support of assemblyman Jim Patterson’s bipartisan Keep California Safe initiative, councilmember Lynne Ashbeck brought forth a resolution in support of the act to the council.
The Keep California Safe Initiative is a statewide effort to address some of the unintended and dangerous consequences that have occurred due to the passage of Proposition 47, Proposition 57 and Assembly Bill 109. These propositions made early release for many inmates possible and reduced some previous felony crimes to misdemeanors. Voters, Patterson’s representative Alisha Gallon said at the meeting, were mislead when voting in support of these propositions as it was not known that they would lead to early release for some violent crimes.
According to Gallon, the following crimes are not currently considered violent under California law:
- Human trafficking of a child
- Abducting a minor for prostitution
- Rape by intoxication
- Rape of an unconscious person
- Felony sexual penetration
- Sodomy or oral copulation when drugs are used or the victim is unconscious
- Drive by shooting or shooting on foot at an inhabited dwelling or vehicle
- Assault with a firearm
- Felony domestic violence
- Assault by a caregiver on a child under 8 that could result in death or coma
- Felony assault using force likely to produce great bodily injury
- False imprisonment/taking a hostage when avoiding arrest or to use as a shield
- Assaulting a police officer with or without a firearm
- Exploding a bomb to injure people
- Felony hate crime
- Felony assault with a deadly weapon serial arson
- Solicitation to commit murder
- Assault with caustic chemicals
- Any felony where a deadly weapon is used
- Felony use of force or threats against a witness or victim of a crime
- Felony elder or dependent adult abuse
- Conspiracy to commit any of the above offenses
Since the crimes listed above are not considered violent, inmates convicted of these crimes are eligible for early release. Proponents of the Keep California Safe initiative believe these crimes are violent and should be added to the list of violent crimes so those who convicted of them will not be released early.
If the act is added to the November 2018 ballot and is voter approved, making the above crimes classified as violent, that will halt the release of 20,000 sexual predators, Gallon said.
In addition to reclassifying violent crimes, the initiative aims to reduce the number of thefts now classified as misdemeanors by instating a “three strikes” rule that would deter petty property theft by making a third or greater misdemeanor theft greater than $250 a felony charge.
Proposition 47 changed the dollar threshold for theft to be considered a felony from $450 to $950, and as a result, there has been an explosion of serial theft and an inability of law enforcement to prosecute these crimes effectively. Statewide, theft has increased from 12 percent to 25 percent, with losses of a billion dollars since the law passed. The Keep California Safe Act would counteract this unintended consequence of Proposition 47.
Also as a result of Proposition 47, DNA collection from misdemeanor crime scenes was halted. Since this DNA would often lead law enforcement to connecting the dots and solving other, often more violent, crimes, the Keep California Safe initiative would reinstate the collection of this DNA. According to Gallon, multiple studies have shown that DNA collected from theft and drug crimes has helped solve other violent crimes, including robbery, rape and murder, and since passage of Proposition 47, cold case hits have dropped over 2,000 with more than 400 of those hits connected to violent crimes.
The initiative would also require the Board of Parole Hearings to consider an inmates entire criminal history when deciding parole, not just his or her most recent committed offense. AB 109 based parole solely on an offender’s last offense, resulting in the release of inmates with serious and violent criminal histories.
“California voters were misled about Propositions 47 and 57 and they are demanding that these changes be made,” Assemblyman Jim Patterson said after the meeting. “I have tried and so have some of my fellow legislators in Sacramento, to fix this through legislation and our bills are voted down in the Public Safety Committee. Now, it’s up to the voters to make these changes to keep violent criminals from being released on to our streets.”
In addition to hearing from Patterson’s office, Clovis councilmembers also heard statements of support for the Keep California Safe initiative from Clovis Planning Commissioner and representative of District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, Billy Terrance, and from Clovis Police Chief Matt Basgall.
The council voted unanimously in favor of the resolution supporting the initiative.
More than 320,000 of the 365,000 signatures needed have been collected in the effort to put the initiative on the November 2018 ballot. To have a petition mailed, supporters can visit www.KeepCalSafe.org. The deadline to collect signatures is April 30.