A Republican-led attempt to repeal Proposition 47 gained a strong endorsement from the Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The board unanimously approved a letter to the California Assembly in support of Assembly Bill 1599 – authored by Kevin Kiley (R–Rocklin), James Gallagher (R–Yuba City) and Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) – which would see the 2014 ballot initiative be removed from state law.
Titled the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, Proposition 47 passed with nearly 60 percent support and reduced most drug offenses and property thefts valued under $950 to straight misdemeanors.
It also created a process for people currently serving a felony sentence for theft and drug offenses to petition the court for re-sentencing as a misdemeanor and allowed people who have already served their terms to apply for reclassification of their crime as a misdemeanor.
“The voters usually get it right – not always, but they usually get it right. But they were duped,” Supervisor David Couch said.
“They were told that this is the safe neighborhoods and schools act, and a lot of people don’t read much past that so they voted yes for that. I think if they were given another opportunity and they’re given the facts and it’s titled appropriately, they’ll turn this around.”
If AB 1599 passes, the crimes affected by Proposition 47 would see the felony threshold reduced from $950 to $400 in property value.
Notably, the penalty for cannabis possession would not change under the bill as it would keep the rules established under Proposition 47.
“Prop. 47 has recently come under intense scrutiny amid a rash of smash-and-grab robberies by organized retail thieves who have ransacked stores, pharmacies, and other businesses, sometimes in violent fashion,” the letter reads.
In the letter, the county pointed to a December 2021 smash-and-grab robbery that the Bakersfield Police Department responded to at a jewelry store inside the Valley Plaza Mall.
“The police department received reports of four suspects using tools to break glass display cases at the Kevin Jewelers storefront,” the letter reads. “Some terrified shoppers reportedly mistook the sound of the tool impacts on the glass as gunshots, adding more chaos and confusion to the situation.”
The county also pointed to a January situation near Fort Tejon where four people were arrested after they allegedly committed a smash-and-grab robbery at an athletic apparel store in Studio City the day before.
“Considering all the economic development efforts and investments that have been made at the Tejon Outlets and given the proximity of the stores to the 99/5 Freeway interchange and their relatively rural location, it is not unreasonable to assume that organized thieves could target the facility and disrupt daily commerce,” the letter reads.
“Within the proximity of the Outlets at Tejon, efforts are also under way to develop a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, which could also become a target for these brazen crimes. While Los Angeles and the Bay Area are experiencing significantly more smash-and-grab cases, Kern is certainly prone to these types of crimes and pursuing legislative remedies now may prevent their prevalence in the future.”