California’s Attorney General Says Props 47 and 57 May Have Led to an Increase in Crime

The past week has yielded quite a few “I told you so” moments from public safety hardliners. On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new program to compel unhoused people with severe mental health and substance abuse issues into treatment — a policy mental health and public safety advocates have recommended for years. On the same day, Attorney General Rob Bonta acknowledged for the first time that two criminal justice reform measures he supported may be contributing to California’s crime surge after all.

"Some folks are wondering if there is causation between [Propositions 47 and 57] and what we’re seeing today, and there may be," Bonta said, as quoted by POLITICO’s Jeremy B. White. The AG added that he now supports changes to these laws "to address an unintended consequence or keep people safe."

Prop 47 downgraded a host of crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, including thefts under $950. Prop 57 expanded parole consideration and early release for many criminal defendants.

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors across California have been warning about the impacts of these two propositions for years. Their concerns were repeatedly dismissed. One of those prosecutors, Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, is now challenging Bonta’s re-election. She has made his support for Props 47 and 57 a centerpiece of her campaign.

Most experts say there is little statistical evidence linking the reform measures to an increase in crime. Voters see it differently. A new poll from Berkeley IGS shows Californians are concerned by rising crime in their neighborhoods and want to see changes to Prop 47 to allow more criminals to be charged with felonies. This is a stark turnaround from 2020 when voters rejected a ballot measure that would have closed loopholes in these laws.