Proposition 47, the 2014 California voter-approved initiative that reduced penalties for certain drug and property crimes, has led to the lowest arrest total in state history as police frequently ignore those illegal activities, experts tell the Associated Press. The measure lowered criminal sentences by reducing them from felonies that can bring long prison sentences to misdemeanors that instead bring up to a year in jail. State Justice Department statistics show the number of felony arrests plummeted 28.5 percent last year, while misdemeanor arrests rose about 9 percent over 2014. That resulted in 52,000 fewer arrests overall and the lowest arrest count since record-keeping began in 1960.
“It’s really driven by changes in drug and property arrests,” said Magnus Logfstrom of the Public Policy Institute of California. “I think it’s quite clear that Prop. 47 is the major contributor to the changes we’ve seen.” Last year’s decline in arrests is part of a long-term decline dating to the 1980s that has been prompted by the law as well as crowded jails and fewer police, Lofstrom said. It’s too soon to say whether the changes may help lead to rising crime rates,. Lofstrom and other researchers are watching the relationship closely. Law enforcement officials said drug offenders are now commonly cited and released, or ignored, because there may be little penalty if they are arrested. There were about 22,000 fewer drug arrests last year. “The de facto decriminalization of drugs may have an impact,” said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association. “We do know that there’s a lot less arrests being made, which means there are a lot more people on the streets using drugs.”