From Smash and Grab to Catch and Nab

February 2, 2022

How the famous outlaws of the Wild West would love today's California. Back in the day, they had to deal with sheriffs slinging six-shooters, possés of angry townsfolk, and private security literally "riding shotgun" on armed convoys. Today all it takes is a hammer and a backpack -- hoods are optional -- because the police won't apprehend criminals; there's just no point in catching them. The state changed the rules of "cops and robbers" so that "robbers" get to bolt as soon as they are taken to "jail."

The problem began in 2014, explained Deputy Sheriff Josiah O'Neil, when California voters approved Proposition (Prop) 47, "reducing the charge level for narcotics crimes as well as property crimes." Possession of hard narcotics was changed from a felony to a citation. The dollar value of property crimes that were considered a felony was doubled from $450 to $950. "Property crimes and narcotics crimes are closely related to one another," O'Neil explained. "When you need to get high and you can't get [drugs], you break into cars, and you conduct smash and grabs, and you rob people at gunpoint."

The problem got worse in recent years, as district attorneys in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities chose not to prosecute most misdemeanor offenses -- announcements which inevitably led to more misdemeanors. Before, a security camera deterred crime, or at least allowed the police to quickly apprehend the criminal. Now, it only serves to provide video documentation of California's unchecked lawlessness to television sets across the country. Retail storefronts have been hardest hit; many have closed or become unprofitable and unsafe. Thieves have also looted parcels from the Los Angeles rail yard.

The crime spike has grown so unbearable that Californians are, once again, fed up with their government. Woke district attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles are facing recall campaigns. Public pressure has forced both Democratic and Republican legislators to introduce bills to reverse Prop 47. Governor Newsom, who already faced a recall effort over his hypocritical COVID tyranny, stopped promoting transgenderism long enough for a photo-op picking up trash at the L.A. railyard and to propose all the wrong solutions. He wants the state do more of the same: modestly increase police funding, making a smash-and-grab task force permanent, and prosecuting looters under existing law while preserving the notorious Prop 47. About the only new idea he had was taking guns away from law-abiding citizens like Usman Bhatti -- currently the only restraint on California retail theft.

California's progressive policies betray a fundamentally flawed understanding of human nature. They naively believe that humans are naturally good, and it's only social conditions like "systemic racism" or "over-aggressive policing" that corrupt them. Christians understand that humans were created good by God, but they became sinful by their rebellion against him. Government exists as a force to restrain the evil inclinations of our hearts and preserve the social order. America's founders understood this, even deists like James Madison, who said if men were angels no government would be necessary. Now California has set out to prove him right by their bad example.

Abandoned by their government, California citizens like O'Neil are stepping forward themselves. They have launched a signature campaign to put a resolution on the November ballot to increase penalties for repeat smash-and-grab offenders. "Crime is out of control because they know there's no consequences," he explained. Under their proposal, "if you're caught burglarizing or shoplifting three times on the third time, there's an enhanced sentence." The goal of the proposition is to put "tools in the hands of law enforcement," he said.