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Violent Crimes List Would Expand Under Proposed California Ballot Measure

Julia Mitric / Capital Public Radio

Asm. Jim Cooper and law enforcement officials announce a ballot initiative at the California State Capitol Oct. 30, 2017.

Julia Mitric / Capital Public Radio

Law enforcement and crime victims groups introduced a ballot initiative Monday to change California's recent criminal justice laws.

In 2014 California voters approved Proposition 47, which re-classified certain drug possession felonies as misdemeanors. It did the same for petty theft, receiving stolen property and writing bad checks — under a limit of $950.

A coalition of law enforcement officials, crime victims groups and Democratic Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Monday to announce the filing of a ballot initiative to expand the list of violent crimes and make other changes to recent criminal justice laws. 

Jennifer Tejada of the California Police Chiefs Law and Legislative Committee was one of several speakers who called Proposition 47 and other criminal justice laws into question.

"While we want to keep people out of the criminal justice system as much as possible and provide reform, it's just not happening," Tejada said.

Tejada argued that measures that re-classified certain felonies as misdemeanors have created a 'revolving door' where police arrest the same people over and over with little consequence. In her view, the laws also limit DNA collection that can be valuable in solving cold cases.

Lenore Anderson leads Californians for Safety and Justice. She's a proponent of several criminal justice measures passed since 2011 (including Proposition 47) and argues there's growing bi-partisan support for the state to take a different approach to public safety.

"This is a state that has historically over-relied on felony convictions and prison beds as the main public safety strategy," Anderson said. "When we re-think that approach and start to get more balanced, we do need to adapt and improve our local practices."

Anderson points to data from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice showing that crime rates — while down overall statewide — vary greatly from city to city. She said that suggests that when it comes to public safety, what happens at the local level is far more important than statewide law.

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