Proposed initiative would end early release for some crimes, allow more DNA collection

Reprinted from The Los Angeles Times (10/30/2017)

A coalition including police officers and prosecutors on Monday proposed a California state initiative that would end early release of rapists and child traffickers and expand the number of crimes for which authorities could collect DNA samples from those convicted.

The ballot measure is sponsored by the California Public Safety Partnership, and would reverse some elements of Proposition 47, which was approved by voters in 2014 and reduced some crimes deemed nonviolent from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The proposed initiative would add 15 crimes to the list of violent crimes for which early release is not an option, including child abuse, rape of an unconscious person, trafficking a child for sex, domestic violence and assault with a deadly weapon.

“These reforms make sure that truly violent criminals stay in jail and don’t get out early,” said Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert, a leader of the coalition.

The initiative would also allow DNA collection for certain crimes, including drug offenses, that were reduced to misdemeanors under Proposition 47.

Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) said there have been 2,000 fewer hits matching DNA to cold cases annually in recent years.

He cited one case from 1989 involving the murder of two young girls in Sacramento that was solved last year by DNA taken from a man in a drug case before those were excluded from DNA collection.

“If that case happens today, right now, it does not get solved,” said Cooper, a former sheriff’s captain.

Proposition 47 also made theft of goods valued at less than $950 a misdemeanor, so some criminals are committing serial thefts and keeping each one to $949 or less, Cooper said. The initiative would make serial theft a felony.

The measure also mandates a parole revocation hearing for anyone who violates the terms of their parole three times.

“A Whittier police officer was recently murdered by a parolee who had violated parole five times,” said Los Angeles Police Protective League President Craig Lally, who supports the initiative.

A representative of the group behind Proposition 47 said it was not reasonable to blame the ballot measure for an uptick in some crimes in some parts of the state.

“Fluctuations in crime have much more to do with economic and social policies and practices,” said Tom Hoffman, a spokesman for the group Californians for Safety and Justice. “It’s so much more complicated than one piece of legislation as an issue.”

The proponents of the initiative need to collect signatures from 365,880 voters by the end of April to qualify the initiative for the November 2018 election.