By Tori Richards

It’s hard to imagine, but California was once known for being a trailblazer of tough anti-crime laws in the 1990s.

After the novel three-strikes law passed in 1994, making the third violent felony a life sentence, the crime rate dropped dramatically. Other measures followed, strengthening laws pertaining to sexual assault.

But with strong laws comes a large prison population.

So when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a California prison reduction of up to 46,000 inmates in 2011, the tide was turning toward liberals, and the time was ripe for Proposition 47. This was a ballot initiative that passed three years later, downgrading numerous nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors.

Police and politicians say it was an ill-conceived law that tricked voters, as evidenced most recently by a surge in looting in the Bay Area. Because thefts aren’t usually prosecuted, many retailers in liberal San Francisco have shut down.

“The easiest way to reduce crime is to fix Proposition 47 and reimpose strong sentencing for the pervasive retail theft that is literally closing stores across our state,” said Tracy McCray, vice president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

“Exacerbating the situation is San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s insistence on dropping or downgrading charges of those caught red-handed that allows those very same crooks to further victimize our communities over and over again.”

Ever since the death of George Floyd last summer, the nation has watched disturbing images of mass looting as TV crews and citizen journalists beat police to crime scenes to film the spectacles. Suspects who do not steal more than $950 face only the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

Before Proposition 47, anything more than $450 was grand theft — a felony.

It’s easy to see how the public fell for a campaign to vote for this law, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told the Washington Examiner.

FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva comments during a news conference at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles. In a major reversal, Villanueva said Wednesday, May 19, 2021, that the names of deputies who shoot civilians will be released within 30 days of the incident, a newspaper reported. Villanueva's policy switch comes after the Los Angeles Times found that the LA sheriff's department was an outlier among some of California's largest law enforcement agencies, which promptly identify officers involved in shootings. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) Damian Dovarganes/AP

Celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Kevin Hart, Arsenio Hall, Alyssa Milano, John Legend, and Jay Z supported the measure, with the latter talking about it during a 2014 Rose Bowl concert. Catholic bishops in California got behind it, believing that prison savings would be spent on rehabilitation.

“Pope Francis called upon the legal community to examine and address the causes of crime — which are rooted in economic and social inequality,” the bishops said in a statement. “He further emphasized that the increase in harsh sentencing does nothing to address the underlying issues.”

What the public wasn’t told was that a specialized drug court in the state’s courthouses had been a highly successful rehabilitation tool that got users, motivated to have their charges dismissed along with the prison sentence upon completion of treatment, sober.

“They sold this as a bill of goods that was going to reform the criminal justice system and relieve prison overcrowding — this was going to do everything,” Villanueva said. “It was very well organized and financed by the typical George Soros types who think cops are bad, crooks are good.”

The main supporters of the measure were then-San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, then-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the California Teachers Association. Law enforcement and prosecutors opposed it.

“Prop. 47 supporters admit that 10,000 inmates will be eligible for early release. They wrote this measure so that judges will not be able to block the early release of these prison inmates, many of whom have prior convictions for serious crimes, such as assault, robbery and home burglary,” the initiative’s opponents wrote in the ballot statement.

Villanueva blames the current looting epidemic squarely on the shoulders of Proposition 47 — with one exception.

“It’s half of what is responsible. The other half is the Gascons of the world who don’t want to prosecute the reduced crimes,” Villanueva said. “It’s the worst of both worlds.”

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But voters are waking up to this new reality that they were tricked and will start voting for more centirst candidates, as evidenced by the efforts to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, Gascon, now the District Attorney of Los Angeles County, Boudin, and a Los Angeles city council member, the sheriff said.

“People are getting tired of the far-left ‘woke’ crowd … and the narrative that we have to support lawlessness or we are racist. I think California as a state is lurching toward the center but dominated [politically] by the far, far Left.”

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