Crime could be a hot political issue in 2022 – Orange County Register


Periodically California experiences an increase in crime – or at least an increase in public awareness and concern about crime – and it becomes a political issue.

During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, as crime rates and public fear peaked, Republicans made big election gains by accusing Democratic rivals of being lenient on crime.

Republicans George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson took the issue to governor, Republicans made substantial gains in the legislature, and it greatly contributed to voters ousting three liberal Supreme Court justices. The era also saw a slew of lock-’em-up sentencing laws, such as “three hits and you are out,” which filled prisons with tens of thousands more criminals.

Gradually, as crime rates fell and state policy drifted to the left, the problem was reversed. Over the past decade, a series of legislative and electoral measures have eased sentences and reduced the prison population by a third, with former Gov. Jerry Brown leading the “criminal justice reform” movement. “.

Current governor Gavin Newsom has largely pursued Brown’s policy, unilaterally suspending the execution of murderers and proposing to close some prisons. So it was a little strange to see Newsom publicly denounce the violators last week after a series of crushing raids on high-end outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area and southern California.

“The level of organized theft in retail that we are seeing is simply unacceptable,” Newsom said. “Businesses and customers need to feel secure when shopping for the holiday season. “

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who faces a recall election over allegations he was too lenient on crime, has announced felony charges against nine people arrested for thefts in the business of detail, stating: “These brazen acts will not be tolerated in San Francisco.

Despite the response to retail thefts, the state’s most serious problem is a worrying increase in violent crime. The state saw a 31% increase in homicides in 2020 to 2,258, the highest since 2007.

As Newsom denounced retail thefts last week, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong announced the city’s 100th homicide of the year and said, “If this isn’t a call to everyone in the community that this is a crisis, i dont i dont know what it is. Oakland had seen 66 homicides at this time last year and 52 in 2019.

Newsom and Boudin’s responses imply that they see a political danger in concerns about crime. The situation also emboldens critics of recent moves to relax criminal penalties, such as Proposition 47 in 2014 and Jerry Brown’s Proposition 57 in 2016.

One of them is Assembly Member Jim Cooper, a former police officer who sponsored Proposition 20, an unsuccessful 2020 measure to overturn some provisions of previous initiatives.

“The public should know that there is a direct correlation between rampant serial thefts and voters duped by proponents of Proposition 47,” said Cooper, a Democrat from Elk Grove. “We are seeing a theft epidemic caused by over-promised and under-fulfilled Proposition 47 that has literally turned California into the wild Wild West. “

So will crime be an issue for the 2020 election, when Newsom, Boudin and other political figures like Attorney General Rob Bonta face voters?

Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert is running against Bonta as a tough prosecutor. Boudin’s recall will also be on the ballot, and critics from Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón are also trying to recall it.

If crime, especially violent crime, continues its upward trend, it could indeed become the hottest election issue of 2022.

CalMatters is a public service journalism firm committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories from Dan Walters, visit


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