Ballot Initiative to Amend California’s Prop 47 Gains Momentum

Ballot Initiative to Amend California’s Prop 47 Gains Momentum

A security guard watches the entrance to a Louis Vuitton store, which has had its windows boarded near Union Square in San Francisco, Calif., on Nov. 30, 2021. Stores have increased security in response to a spike in thefts. (Ethan Swope/Getty Images)

Nathan Su

Nathan Su

3/8/2024

Updated: 3/9/2024

A referendum to amend California’s much-criticized Proposition 47 (Prop 47) has already collected nearly 500,000 signatures in less than a month.
Prop 47 as a ballot measure was passed by California voters on Nov. 5, 2014. It aims to reduce the prison population by reclassifying some crimes, such as drug possession, theft, shoplifting, identity theft, receiving stolen property, and check fraud, as misdemeanors. It also raises the threshold for felony charges from $450 to $950, resulting in thefts under $950, even for repeated offenders, being classified as misdemeanors without the need for imprisonment.
Critics of Prop 47 say that it has led to social problems in California. Since its passage, they say the state has increasingly become a paradise for vagrants, drug users, drug traffickers, and thieves, which has affected businesses and the public.
In February, grassroots organization California Safe Communities (CSC), proposed an amendment to Prop 47. The new ballot initiative is named The Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act (HDARA). It aims to amend the harmful effects caused by Prop 47 and improve community safety.

Polls Show Overwhelming Support

Anne Marie Schubert, the co-chair of the referendum initiative, told The Epoch Times that the measure is a comprehensive solution to California’s serious problems of homelessness, addiction, and theft. Ms. Schubert was the former Sacramento County District Attorney between 2014 and 2023.
While the CSC website shows 70 percent of California voters support HDARA, Ms Schubert told The Epoch Times that polls show 89 percent of survey respondents hope to amend Prop 47 to hold thieves accountable and get drug addicts into treatment.
She said the amendment is a bipartisan proposal, “not an outright repeal,” but a revision of Prop 47 aimed at addressing the crisis of habitual theft, addiction, and fentanyl.
Ms. Schubert believed that helping drug addicts detox is key to solving the problem.
She said that while driving along the highways in California, campsites are visible everywhere. Many vagrants in these camps have drug abuse problems, and to satisfy their addiction, many are compelled to commit theft.
Moreover, some have realized that they can rob stores and small businesses with impunity without consequences.
She believed that homelessness, addiction, and theft are interconnected issues. To solve these problems, addressing the drug users’ addiction is the key.
She mentioned that before the implementation of Pro 47, California had very strong drug courts where people had to go through drug courts and undergo treatment. This approach had been very successful.
However, Ms. Schubert pointed out that after Prop 47 was implemented, 75 percent to 85 percent of addicts were unwilling to go to court even after receiving subpoenas because Prop 47 had made charges against them dropped to misdemeanors from felonies. She quoted recent statements from the Sacramento County Sheriff, stating that there had been 30,000 warrants for drug and theft offenders who never showed up in court.
“This is just in Sacramento County alone, and there are 58 counties in the state. Imagine what those numbers are. So again, I don’t fault law enforcement. I fault the consequences of what we’ve seen from Prop 47,” Ms. Schubert said.
People pass homeless individuals in Los Angeles. Calif., on Jan. 11, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

People pass homeless individuals in Los Angeles. Calif., on Jan. 11, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

She also clarified that this is not a mass incarceration bill, “it’s designed to get people into treatment, to get them back on track, to get them out, to lift them out of these horrific addictions, and for many of those folks, to lift them out of homelessness as well.”
Ms. Schubert further pointed out that under Prop 47, there is no distinction between stealing once and stealing a thousand times, and “thieves know this.” She said it’s time to hold those who repeatedly break the law accountable.
She said that this referendum proposal is a comprehensive approach to thoroughly address the root causes of problems such as homelessness, addiction, and theft.

Costs and Benefits of Amendment

To those who are skeptical about the ballot initiative because of its financial impact on the state budget, Ms. Schubert asked them to consider the social losses caused by homelessness, drug addiction, and theft. She believes that the benefits brought by this referendum proposal far outweigh its costs.
She said that retailers like Walmart or Target have already invested millions of dollars to enhance security measures, and small mom-and-pop grocery stores have closed down one after another, forcing residents to shop elsewhere. In many California stores, items are locked up, and it takes time for customers to wait for things to be unlocked.
Ms. Schubert asserted that besides tangible costs, there are also intangible costs, such as the loss of quality of life. The increased crime rates have already had a serious impact on the quality of life of all Californians. “How do you measure happiness?” she asked.
Because drug addicts often inhabit public spaces such as parks, “as parents, we can’t take our kids to parks anymore. Our public spaces have been overtaken,” she said that Californians must be willing to acknowledge these costs, not just the costs incurred by actual measures.
The “Reduce Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Act” initiative mainly includes:
  • Anyone arrested three times for possession of hard drugs must undergo drug treatment; otherwise, they will face felony charges.
  • Strengthening penalties for drug traffickers, especially fentanyl traffickers.
  • Anyone arrested three times for theft, regardless of the amount, will be considered a felony.
Before April 30, this referendum initiative requires at least approximately 550,000 valid signatures to be included on the November ballot for a statewide vote. The CSC website is https://casafecommunities.com.
This proposal has also received support from many law enforcement agencies and endorsements from more than thirty mayors and local elected officials. In addition, some businesses, such as Walmart and Target, are top supporters.
Kerry Xue contributed to this report.
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Nathan Su

Nathan Su

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Nathan Su is a writer for The Epoch Times since 2018.

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