Democrat cities show how not to make our neighborhoods safer

Whenever we hear of robberies, we tend to focus our sympathy toward the victims — the persons or stores that were robbed.  We should remember that there are other indirect victims on whom property crimes also take a substantial toll.

I refer to the thousands of public servants in our justice system for whom the work of investigating, prosecuting, trying, and incarcerating thieves entails considerable time and expense.  Taxpayers are also affected.  The cost of processing such crimes frequently dwarfs the value of the stolen property.

A few years ago, the State of California set about to rectify this problem with Proposition 47, entitled the "Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative."  Supporters, including a former San Francisco district attorney and a former San Diego police chief, called it the "Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act" because, they said, it would free up law enforcement officers to pursue more dangerous criminals.

The proposition promised to make neighborhoods and schools safer by raising from $500 to $950 the threshold for felony shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, and writing bad checks.

In 2014, Proposition 47 passed with nearly 60% of the vote.  Formerly "grand theft" was now a misdemeanor, so long as the loot did not exceed $950.  Misdemeanors are much less costly to process than felonies because they don't trigger expensive investigations or prison sentences.  They only call for a citation requesting the alleged thief to appear in court (and then only if the cops happen to know his identity and address).  Sometimes the suspect no-shows in court, and that saves the state even more money in court costs.  California calls that a win-win.

Predictably, thieves began to roam stores with calculators to make sure they didn't steal more than $950 at a time.  Equally predictably, many victims stopped reporting crimes to the police because they knew that the police would do nothing.  Authorities saw this as a win, too, because less reporting would help keep crime statistics down.

Chicago took approving notice and resolved to make its neighborhoods even safer than those in California.  In 2016, Chicago D.A. Kim Foxx announced that her office would prosecute only those property crimes that exceeded $1,000 in value, and in which the alleged perpetrator had at least ten prior felony convictions.  This meant there was hardly anybody left in Chicago who could qualify as a robber felon — which leaves her prosecutors with plenty of time to focus on gun crimes, D.A. Foxx explained.

Alas, crime statistics in California and Chicago went up anyway.  Vehicle break-ins in California rose 15% within a year.  In San Francisco the increase was 24%, which amounts to one every twenty minutes.  In Chicago, shoplifting jumped 34%.  The good news: Courtrooms, jails, and prisons were likely less crowded than they otherwise might have been.

During a recent presidential debate, Elizabeth Warren said something that could, if implemented, reverse this progress.  She said: "I will change the rules that put people in prison based on their birth sex ID rather than their current ID."  I read this to mean that if a male felon claims he is a she, then he would be placed in a women's prison.

This could be a big incentive for criminally inclined lonely men.  It's not difficult to imagine future thieves roaming stores with calculators to make sure they steal more than $950 or $1,000, depending upon where they live.

Whenever we hear of robberies, we tend to focus our sympathy toward the victims — the persons or stores that were robbed.  We should remember that there are other indirect victims on whom property crimes also take a substantial toll.

I refer to the thousands of public servants in our justice system for whom the work of investigating, prosecuting, trying, and incarcerating thieves entails considerable time and expense.  Taxpayers are also affected.  The cost of processing such crimes frequently dwarfs the value of the stolen property.

A few years ago, the State of California set about to rectify this problem with Proposition 47, entitled the "Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative."  Supporters, including a former San Francisco district attorney and a former San Diego police chief, called it the "Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act" because, they said, it would free up law enforcement officers to pursue more dangerous criminals.

The proposition promised to make neighborhoods and schools safer by raising from $500 to $950 the threshold for felony shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, and writing bad checks.

In 2014, Proposition 47 passed with nearly 60% of the vote.  Formerly "grand theft" was now a misdemeanor, so long as the loot did not exceed $950.  Misdemeanors are much less costly to process than felonies because they don't trigger expensive investigations or prison sentences.  They only call for a citation requesting the alleged thief to appear in court (and then only if the cops happen to know his identity and address).  Sometimes the suspect no-shows in court, and that saves the state even more money in court costs.  California calls that a win-win.

Predictably, thieves began to roam stores with calculators to make sure they didn't steal more than $950 at a time.  Equally predictably, many victims stopped reporting crimes to the police because they knew that the police would do nothing.  Authorities saw this as a win, too, because less reporting would help keep crime statistics down.

Chicago took approving notice and resolved to make its neighborhoods even safer than those in California.  In 2016, Chicago D.A. Kim Foxx announced that her office would prosecute only those property crimes that exceeded $1,000 in value, and in which the alleged perpetrator had at least ten prior felony convictions.  This meant there was hardly anybody left in Chicago who could qualify as a robber felon — which leaves her prosecutors with plenty of time to focus on gun crimes, D.A. Foxx explained.

Alas, crime statistics in California and Chicago went up anyway.  Vehicle break-ins in California rose 15% within a year.  In San Francisco the increase was 24%, which amounts to one every twenty minutes.  In Chicago, shoplifting jumped 34%.  The good news: Courtrooms, jails, and prisons were likely less crowded than they otherwise might have been.

During a recent presidential debate, Elizabeth Warren said something that could, if implemented, reverse this progress.  She said: "I will change the rules that put people in prison based on their birth sex ID rather than their current ID."  I read this to mean that if a male felon claims he is a she, then he would be placed in a women's prison.

This could be a big incentive for criminally inclined lonely men.  It's not difficult to imagine future thieves roaming stores with calculators to make sure they steal more than $950 or $1,000, depending upon where they live.