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Potential ballot measure could stiffen penalties for drug and retail crimes

Local leaders push for ballot measure stiffening penalties for shoplifting and drug dealing
Local leaders push for ballot measure stiffening penalties for shoplifting and drug dealing 02:54

A group of local leaders and business owners are pitching a ballot measure to reform a decade-old law. 

This group says it has gathered enough signatures for a ballot measure to fix this by imposing tougher penalties for a range of property crimes. 

"I'm a business owner of 30 years in this community, and I've had it," Tricia La Belle, president of the Greater LA Hospitality Association, said. "In November, we anticipate voters will support this measure as we have support across the aisle."

At the heart of their frustration is Prop 47. 

"We must hold repeat offenders accountable," business owner Greg Morena said. "We must amend Prop 47 so habitual drug addicts of fentanyl and meth are compelled into drug treatment programs and incentivized to complete those programs."

The group fighting to add these new reforms said their measure will reform Prop 47, which was passed in 2014. It softened penalties for drug and retail theft. 

"As the mayor of the city of Santa Monica, I've seen firsthand the heartbreak of retail theft's consequences and the impact on community safety," Mayor Phil Brock said. 

Year-to-year crime stats in Los Angeles County are mixed. Violent crime has decreased by robberies and property crimes have increased. However, there is a debate about whether Prop 47 is actually fueling scenes like smash-and-grabs and other property crimes. 

"My read is that these are different interpretations of public safety," Matt Lesenyie, assistant professor at CSU Long Beach, said. "The top-of-mind thing to me is that property or organized retail theft isn't really public safety."

Lesenyie said while horrifying videos of the flash mob robberies scare a lot of people, they don't tell the whole story. 

"To make a thoughtful policy choice often requires some nuance and complexity," he said. "We're in a moment right now where this group that's gathering signatures is sort of leveraging that opportunity, that moment, our fear, to say we need to get tougher on crime."

The group has gathered about 900,000 signatures, well above the required 500,000. The California Secretary of State will review and verify the signatures to see if the measure will qualify for the November election. 

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