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Car Break-Ins and Property Theft on the Rise in California Following Passage of Prop 47

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California crime is on the rise and many residents of the Golden State are now regretting the passage of a significant law implemented a few years ago that essentially emboldened criminals despite its good intentions.


In November 2014, California voted in favor of Prop 47, a law aimed at reducing charges from felonies to misdemeanors for drug and property crimes, including theft. The intention was to reduce the state’s prison population and emphasize rehabilitation, helping drug addicts keep a felony off their record for what lawmakers view as minor crimes


As long as the theft does not exceed $950 in value, it is charged as a misdemeanor, no matter how many prior offenses one has on their record. Shoplifting, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks, check forgery, and other theft such as car break-ins are now deemed as misdemeanors if under the $950 mark.


This law has had a dangerous ripple effect throughout the state and its courts have interpreted it broadly to uphold it despite law enforcement’s opposition to this new reality.


In November 2017, the California Supreme Court decided that a person convicted of a felony for stealing a car can have that conviction reduced to a misdemeanor if the vehicle is worth less than $950.



Shattered glass from car break-ins are strewn on an increasing number of streets in the liberal bastions of San Francisco and Oakland. The numbers are astonishing.


Oakland had 10,000 car break-ins last year, 24 percent more than in 2016. San Francisco totaled more than 30,000 last year, almost three-times the number reported in 2010. The Mission district alone saw a 47 percent increase in car break-ins from 2016 to 2017.

Stories abound of this troubling trend on the rise from a tourist chasing after their stolen car on foot to a photographer who lost a couple’s wedding photos and an Olympic skater who had her skates and costumes stolen from her rental car.


Burglars work in organized groups called crews made up of career criminals. A 2016 civil grand jury report, stated that these crews consists of two to five people. 70 to 80 percent of all car break-ins in San Francisco are done by these crews which drive around in cars without titles or license plates that cannot be tracked down easily.


What is San Francisco’s solution for this out of control problem? Throw more money at it of course! In February, District Attorney George Gascon announced he’s seeking $1 million from the city’s board of supervisors to help put a stop to car break-ins in addition to adding a website and telephone tip line.


It’s a similar story in Los Angeles.


Recent data from LA’s Sheriff’s Department on the impact of Prop 47 in LA County is both sobering and incontrovertible.