California voters’ decision to reduce penalties for drug and property crimes in 2014 contributed to a jump in car burglaries, shoplifting and other theft, says the Public Policy Institute of California. Larcenies increased about 9 percent by 2016, or about 135 more thefts per 100,000 residents than if tougher penalties had remained, the Associated Press reports. Thefts from motor vehicles accounted for three-quarters of the increase. San Francisco alone recorded more than 30,000 auto burglaries last year, which authorities blamed largely on gangs. Shoplifting may be leveling off, but there is no sign of a decline in thefts from vehicles.
Proposition 47 lowered criminal sentences for drug possession, theft, shoplifting, identity theft, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks and check forgery from a classification as felonies that can bring prison terms to misdemeanors that often bring minimal jail sentences. While researchers linked the measure to more theft, they found it did not lead to the state’s increase in violent crime. Violent crime spiked 13 percent after Proposition 47 passed, but researchers said the trend started earlier and was mainly because of unrelated changes in crime reporting by the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department. The FBI broadened its definition of sexual crimes in 2014, while the LAPD improved its crime reporting after previously underreporting violent crimes. If it weren’t for those changes, the state’s violent crime rate would have increased 4.7 percent from 2014 to 2016, researchers said. California still has historically low crime rates despite recent changes in the criminal justice system aimed at reducing mass incarceration and increasing rehabilitation and treatment, said Lenore Anderson of Californians for Safety and Justice, who led the drive to pass Proposition 47.