Let's say you (foolishly) leave your iPad on the front seat of your car, forget to lock the door, and go shopping. You come out, see someone making off with your iPad and call the Monrovia Police. They catch the guy. Hooray! But what happens next?
A ticket. The thief gets a citation, and he may be ticketed right on the spot and released, though he may be brought in for fingerprinting and identification. But at the end of the day the suspect walks out the door with a misdemeanor citation.
Monrovia Police Chief James Hunt told me why.
With the passage of Proposition 47, which Hunt strongly opposed (see here: http://goo.gl/dETaoI ) many felonies were turned into misdemeanors, including many types of theft.
Previously, he said, if a person stole something worth more than $500, it was a felony, or if he entered a business - for example - with the intent of stealing, regardless of the value of the item, it was a felony. Now, as long as the value of the item is under $950, it's a misdemeanor and it doesn't matter if the criminal has been doing it all day long all over town and has 100 prior arrests for the same crime, it's still a misdemeanor.
And even if the suspect is convicted in court, Hunt said, the likelihood of him spending time in jail is extremely low since there is little room in the jails for misdemeanor offenders.
The effect of the law, he said, was almost immediate. Just after it passed, he said, police stopped crimes and were told by the thieves, "You can't arrest me for a misdemeanor."
"Why break in to steal something when you can just grab it and run out the door?" Hunt said. The worst you face if you get caught is a misdemeanor charge.
"For our merchants," he said, "it's terrible."
All businesses are affected, he added, but the large retailers like Home Depot, Kohl's and supermarkets (where thieves like to grab alcohol) are hit hardest.
Hunt is also concerned that...
~ People serving jail time for felonies are petitioning to be released early since their crimes are now misdemeanors.
~ Probation terms are not applied for misdemeanors, and with some felonies being reclassified as misedmeanors, probation terms will not apply.
~ Possession of drugs, even date-rape drugs, is now just a ticketing offense.
- Brad Haugaard