LANCASTER (CBSLA.com) — City Council members in Lancaster want to go after the pocketbooks of criminal offenders.
In what officials say is an "effort to preserve the safety of its residents and businesses," the City Council is considering an initiative to counteract changes to state law that mandates certain criminal offenses must now be charged as misdemeanors.
As a result of voters passing Proposition 47 in November, fewer offenders convicted of theft, shoplifting, receipt of stolen property, and other crimes have resulted are being prosecuted or serving time in jail, according to city officials.
Under the city's proposed Administrative Citation Program, local law enforcement will work to deter such crimes by the issuance of a $500 fine for the first offense, and a $1,000 fine for every offense thereafter.
Officials hope the fines, which will be "strictly enforced and collected by whatever means allowed by law," will deter offenders from committing these crimes within city limits.
In a statement, Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris said California's inmate realignment and early release programs have had a role in placing "significant new burdens on law enforcement agencies" throughout the state.
Due to various changes that have been made to statewide crime laws and policies over the past several years, offenders throughout California now face fewer repercussions for a variety of significant crimes. Lancaster will consider an innovative and proactive program to counteract this new set of challenges.
"Coupled with the already overloaded and underfunded court system, it is increasingly unlikely that criminal charges will be filed against persons who commit these offenses," Parris said. "In fact, this new proposition will likely embolden some offenders to repeatedly commit these crimes, putting local residents and businesses particularly at risk."
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