Prior to the passage of Proposition 47, the Examiner made clear our position regarding the legislation. Here’s what we said in October of 2014:
“Prop 47: NO…..We agree with the victimless crimes part of the Proposition (simple drug possession), but it goes way beyond that by reducing penalties for crimes with victims such as forgery, fraud and firearm theft”
The North Coast Journal had an article this week by Thaddeus Greenson. While the article was well written, and seemingly well researched, it failed to touch on the main losers in the passing of the proposition: victims. While the article and local media continues to focused on the reduction of drug possession penalties, it seems that they only glossed over the majority of crimes that were actually reclassified from felonies to misdemeanors (meaning little if no consequence to criminals committing these crimes). Possession of drugs was only one of seven areas of change. The other 6 on the list included:
- Shoplifting, where the value of property stolen does not exceed $950
- Grand theft, where the value of the stolen property does not exceed $950
- Receiving stolen property, where the value of the property does not exceed $950
- Forgery, where the value of forged check, bond or bill does not exceed $950
- Fraud, where the value of the fraudulent check, draft or order does not exceed $950
- Writing a bad check, where the value of the check does not exceed $950
All of these crimes involve actual victims, which is why our recommendation was to vote no on prop 47. California has definitely imprisoned too many people for a very long time. One of the largest reasons for that rise in imprisonment was the “war on drugs” and poverty (we won’t into the many reasons for poverty in the US, since the subject is too complex for one humble post). Long sentences and mandatory minimums for offenders (addicts) for simple possession of the “dangerous drugs” they were using has caused a continuous spike in incarceration throughout the US. People using “dangerous drugs” are definitely running the risk of harming themselves and becoming a burden on the healthcare/social service systems. That is why those affected by drug addiction should be looked upon as a public health issue, and not forced into the criminal justice system to be incarcerated.
However, because of the ills of the war on drugs the solutions currently being adopted have been ill thought out, and will have dangerous consequences on local communities. Although drug addiction is a “victimless” crime (unless your an addict), theft, robbery, fraud, shoplifting, and a laundry list of other crimes actually leave behind innocent victims. Although the root cause of these crimes may be related to addiction, we can’t allow there to be no consequences when there are innocent victims involved. Everyone on the Examiner staff has been a victim of crime in this community, and there are far reaching monetary and psychological effects from being a victim that can last a lifetime.
Quite simply, being a drug addict shouldn’t be criminalized, it should be placed into the realm of public health, with full funding and resources to attempt to handle the crisis. However, allowing criminal behavior such as snatching a grandmothers purse, burglarizing a house, stealing a gun or forging a check should carry consequences. However, somehow the victims of these crimes have been forgotten. If any local journalist had their purse or wallet pulled from their hands, with $900 cash inside, that would have a huge impact on their lives (those guys and gals aren’t making the big bucks in this county). That someone could commit a crime like that, without any fear of real punishment, is really a way of “accepting” the behavior. It’s also a way of re-victimizing the victim.
While there will be many discussions over what the consequences will be as a result of “re-alignment” and prop 47, let us all keep actual victims in mind as we have those conversations. After all, protecting the weak is one of governments supposed purposes, as opposed to enabling predatory criminal behavior.
Humboldt County at large, but more especially the City of Eureka, is one of the most likely places in the US to be a victim of property crime. From car burglary, house burglary, check forgery, to outright fraud, the number of victims in Humboldt is astounding. With these changes under prop 47, what little consequences for these crimes there once were have been completely eviscerated. Unfortunately, our county was one of the top places in this state to be effected by these crimes, and it can only get worse from here.