In 2020 California voters resoundingly rejected a state law eliminating cash bail for most people arrested for crimes. Yet in Los Angeles and San Francisco thousands of arrestees are routinely released without bail. A piece by Thomas Elias in the Napa Valley Register discusses the no-bail policy implemented by Los Angeles DA George Gascon. Under Gascon “Offenses legally defined as nonviolent and non-serious including things like solicitation to commit murder, many felony assaults, felony domestic violence resulting in a traumatic condition, resisting a peace officer, molesting a child over 15 and sexual penetration of a mentally or developmentally disabled person” will be released without bail. “Most Californians would consider any of these crimes both serious and violent,” notes Elias. “Most folks would probably also believe a suspect arrested for sucker-punching an elderly Asian woman in a hate crime may have committed a serious offense. But that suspect would be freed pending trial if deputies follow Gascon’s orders.”
Crime, particularly violent crime, has increased by historic levels in Los Angeles and New York City over the past two years. As noted in many recent postings, in both cities broad daylight assaults, carjackings, robberies and murders are a routine part of daily life and often captured on video. District Attorneys in the New York boroughs have responded by declining to prosecute thousands of criminals as reported by Bruce Golding in the New York Post. Last year prosecutors dropped all charges for more than 6,500 suspects, an increase of just under 17% compared to 2019. A law enforcement source told Golding that while the retirement of veteran prosecutors has contributed to the problem, District Attorneys worried about reelection in the Black Lives Matter era are simply letting suspects off. “Throw in a bucket of woke and no one is getting prosecuted.”
Since my college days in the 1960s when I began paying attention to such things, I noticed that whenever liberal/progressive/socialist policies had failed, the default response from proponents was always that the resources and time devoted to these policies were inadequate. This kind of deflection remains standard practice among liberals today. But there are a couple of places in the United States where the government’s investment in progressive criminal justice policies has been substantial and carried out for over a decade. No state has taken progressive sentencing and police reforms further than California, beginning in 2011 with Governor Jerry Brown’s groundbreaking Public Safety Realignment bill AB109. That bill qualified roughly 30,000 prison inmates for early release and eliminated state prison sentences as an option for car thieves, fraudsters, and most burglars and drug dealers.
In April of 2013, Daniel Marsh was 15 years old when he broke into Chip Northup and Claudia Maupin‘s condominium in the middle of the night and heinously murdered them as they slept. His case was directly filed in adult criminal court and, in 2014, he was convicted by a jury of two counts of first degree murder with special circumstances. The trial court imposed a sentence of 52 years to life. The Northup and Maupin families found relief in the verdict and sentence and believed Marsh would be locked up for a very long time. Unfortunately, their relief was short lived and their fight for justice had just begun. Continue reading . . .
If you read major U.S. newspapers or watch the network news lately you have been informed that while homicides increased in some American cities over the past two years, overall crime is down. This Associated Press story by David Klepper and Gary Fields is a typical example of this narrative. Nationally homicides last year increased by 25% with roughly 20,000 people killed. Preliminary data from police departments suggests that the homicide spikes were much higher in urban centers last year and will increase even more this year. We have also been told that these increases have occurred in some places that did not defund their police, so we can’t blame the anti-police progressives or politicians like President Biden who, last year labeled police as racists. The problem with this narrative is that it is false. Two years of double-digit increases in murder is evidence of a serious breakdown in law enforcement. In urban centers the homicide increases are much higher than national numbers reflect. Murders in Los Angeles County are up by 95% over last year’s decade high. In Chicago murders were up 22%, in Minneapolis 56% and in Portland an astounding 800% according to the AP article. Other crimes went up as well.
A 23-year-old vagrant in the Los Angeles County community of Glendale was allowed to go on a crime spree this week thanks to the county’s zero bail policy. Zero bail was instituted last year to somehow address the Covid-19 pandemic by releasing drug dealers and thieves without bail shortly after their arrest. Under District Attorney George Gascon, LA County is continuing the zero bail policy. Louis Casiano of Fox News reports that Kaelun Scharrer was first arrested Monday evening in a stolen car containing drug paraphernalia. Six hours later he was released without bail. Scharrer then proceeded to the American Brand Shopping Mall and stole a tip jar and fled on foot. He was later arrested, charged with a misdemeanor and released again without bail. He walked out of the police station and immediately stole a flatbed truck. He was later arrested with the truck in the city of LaVerne. This time the thief is being held in jail on $25,000 bail. The LA County Police Chief told reporters that crimes like car theft have increased under zero bail. Duh. Progressives want to make zero bail permanent.
A poll commissioned by the campaign to recall progressive Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón found that 61.4% of registered voters support replacing him. James Varney of the Washington Times reports that Gascón did not respond to a request for comment. Gascón’s policies of releasing property offenders without bail, declining to fully charge serious offenders, and seeking to reduce the sentences of even violent criminals, has contributed to an epidemic of crime an violence in Los Angeles, sparking the effort to remove him from office. The poll, conducted between July 23-28, involved 650 LA County voters of which 53% were Democrat and 17% Republican, with the rest either declined to state or independent. The poll also found that 41.5% of respondents are willing to sign the recall petition, with translates into 2,331,653. The campaign needs to gather signatures from 579,062 registered LA Country voters by October 27 to put the question on the ballot.
There were nearly three times as many homicides in Washington, DC last month than there were deaths due to Covid-19, and as reported by Greg Norman of Fox News, some of the city’s government leaders think a change in priorities is in order. “We’re in a pandemic right now when it comes to crime in this community and we got to start acting it,” City Councilman Trayon White told reporters, following the death of the six-year-old girl killed while riding her scooter in a shooting that also injured her mother and several others. Ten people were shot at one incident in Queens New York over the weekend, while five people were shot on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans Saturday night. In Chicago, seven were killed and 48 were wounded over the weekend.
With the unprecedented surge in shootings and homicides in California over the past two years, you would think that even the state’s woke, progressive political class would take action to crack down on criminal firearm use. Nope.
Michele Hanisee, veteran prosecutor and President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys in Los Angeles has this piece explaining how progressive LA Country District Attorney George Gascón and the politicians in Sacramento want to decriminalize the use of firearms by criminals at the same time the “LA County Sheriff has reported a stunning 111 percent increase in homicides from January 1, 2021, to May 21, 2021.” Most of the murder victims were shot. Hanisee notes that policies reducing penalties for crimes enacted in Sacramento and ordered by Gascón, not the increase in legal firearm sales that liberal politicians decry, is causing the skyrocketing increase in shootings and homicides in California.
It has become apparent over the past several years that many of those devoted to the progressive movement taking over the Democrat party are divorced from reality and ignorant of history. This is particularly true when it comes to criminal justice policy. In 1994, more than twice as many Californians were victims of violent crime than in 2011. Murders in the Golden State dropped by 60% during that period. There were comparable reductions in New York, Texas, Illinois, Florida and most other states. There have been mountains of research devoted to finding out why this occurred. Perhaps the best compilation of data on this phenomenon is Professor Barry Latzer’s 2016 book, The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America. Latzer concluded that while differences in culture between different racial and ethic groups have historically influenced crime rates, societies’ response to crime plays a major roll in the level of violent crime. In the mid-1990s Americans of every racial and ethnic group demanded a stronger law enforcement response to the criminals dominating its cities during the crime wave of the 1970s and 1980s. That stronger response, including major improvements in policing, delivered two decades of vastly safer cities and neighborhoods, disproportionately benefiting to those living in high-crime urban neighborhoods. None of the thousands of young adults who joined the Black Lives Matter protests last summer know anything about this.