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Guest Opinion: Prop 47 has reduced crime and made Citrus Heights safer

Guest opinion column submitted by David Warren–
Recent comments by Citrus Heights Police Department representatives assert that legislation adopted to divert nonviolent offenders to local supervision has increased the crime rate. That legislation includes Prop 36, which allows habituated individuals to obtain treatment instead of being incarcerated; Prop 57, which provided for parole of numerous inmates under local probation department supervision; and Prop 47, which returned crimes to misdemeanors that had become felonies because of economic inflation.

David Warren

Actually, the crime rate has diminished over the last six years, according to data from the California Department of Justice cited in a Sept. 25 article by the Public Policy Institute of California. State crime statistics, especially for Sacramento County, confirm that crime is decreasing, except for certain urban cities, where non-violent crime has increased.

Related: Citrus Heights sees spike in burglaries, drop in violent crime

In 1974, Willie Horton robbed and fatally stabbed a gas station attendant. Horton was convicted of murder, sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and incarcerated in Massachusetts. On June 6, 1986, Horton was released to a work furlough program, but did not return to prison. On April 3, 1987, Horton raped a woman after pistol-whipping, knifing, binding, and gagging her fiancé and escaped in a car stolen from the man he had assaulted. Horton was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms, plus 85 years.

1988 presidential candidate Michael Dukakis was the governor of Massachusetts at the time of Horton’s release and supported the weekend work furlough which excluded life sentences. George W. Bush’s presidential campaign aired a television advertisement suggesting that if elected, Michael Dukakis would endanger America because if he would allow dangerous felons to be released being “soft on crime,” as president, he would not have sufficient intestinal fortitude to stand up to America’s enemies.

“Tough on crime” began when public office candidates promised to outdo others to incarcerate as many people for as long as possible. The litmus test for election became who is “toughest” on crime. Too often when a crime occurs, police and politicians blame supposedly “soft on crime” laws as the cause. The “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality of television strikes fear into the hearts of the public, especially when respected police officers blame a false cause for the crime: penal reform. Funding for public health; road repairs; primary, secondary, and university education; forestry preservation; the social safety net; and public safety such as fire, police and sheriff’s officers, have been reduced annually in order to pay for the costs of mass incarceration.

A frightening consequence of “tough on crime” was the disproportionate number of racial minorities that were incarcerated. Inmates formed racially segregated gangs inside the prisons, initially for mutual racial safety, and then to exploit the sale and distribution of drugs, weapons, and human trafficking outside prisons. La EME, Nuestra Familia, Black Guerrilla Family, Aryan Brotherhood, and the Nazi Low Riders came into existence because of the harsh sentences which caused inmates to believe they had little chance of ever being released from prison, believing that “it was better to be a prince in hell than a slave in heaven.” Those gangs threaten Citrus Heights by bringing gang violence and drugs to our community.

In 2011, the federal courts ruled that the California prisons violated the United States Constitution because of overcrowding. California was given three choices: build new prisons, reduce inmate population, or have the court’s release inmates. The legislature refused to raise taxes to build and operate new prisons, and elected to choose which and how inmates would be released from prison.

Further solutions are now necessary. Sacramento County funds 75 mental health beds, yet Sacramento County has more than 2,000 homeless including many in Citrus Heights, many of whom are veterans suffering from PTSD. Statistics confirm than 25 percent of the prison inmate population are in custody for crimes as a consequence of mental illness issues, almost 30,000 men and women in California. California has not built a single mental treatment facility since Governor Reagan closed them, except for 1,500 beds in a California prison due to court orders. California’s education system in middle and lower economic areas is in a near state of collapse.

Despite blame pointed at penal reform by Citrus Heights police, a more realistic cause of increased property crime is lack of financial support for rehabilitation services and police patrol staffing increases on the street.

For some individuals, nothing can be done to prevent their criminal conduct.  The hiring of more Citrus Heights police officers to maintain a very public presence, along with adequate funding for the AB 109, Prop 47 and Prop 57 rehabilitation services, will make us all safer with a concomitant lower crime rate.  We in Citrus Heights have two choices: pay the cost of criminal conduct, i.e., property damage and increased insurance premiums, or pay our city to increase the police presence to prevent crime.

David Warren is a Citrus Heights resident and legislative advocate at the State Capitol with Taxpayers for Public Safety. He can be reached at

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