Proposition 6, also known as the Safe Neighborhoods Act, will combat the rising crime rate and fix the flaws in California’s prison and law enforcement systems. During the last 10 years, there have been 5,752 gang-related homicides in Los Angeles County alone. L. A. County only has 20,000 police officers and deputy sheriffs to tackle the estimated 80,000 active gang members. Vehicle theft has increased by 40 percent between 1999 and 2006, and methamphetamine production has gone up significantly since 1998, with around 2,000 meth labs discovered annually, most being set up by street and Mexican-based drug-trafficking gangs.
To combat California’s extensive crime problem, comprehensive reform is necessary. Gang violence is one of the worst problems in California, and we need to reform our legal tactics. Proposition 6 would make it harder for gangs to silence witnesses by allowing sworn statements from witnesses even if they are in hiding or in the witness protection program. If this law is passed, it would supplement the witness protection program with additional funding, which needs to be increased annually as gangs continue to intimidate and make people live in fear.
Penalties for violations such as graffiti, repeated car theft and joy riding would be increased, and the civil gang injunction process would be given a much needed overhaul. Penalty increases of 10 years for gang offenders who commit violent felonies and annual registration with local law enforcement following release from custody are among the new measures taken to combat gang violence. In addition, penalties for possession (for sale or otherwise) of methamphetamine would be on par with cocaine prosecution.
Prevention is the best way to stop crime, and Proposition 6 would provide the needed changes. By increasing funding for mentoring and job training programs for released prisoners, as well as creating new after school programs to keep children from joining gangs, potential crime would be reduced and the burden of dealing with new inmates would be mitigated. In addition, community watch programs would be improved statewide, and new training would enhance city police with officers who are able to target gangs and violent crime, leading to more arrests.
This law has received the support of many influential individuals and organizations, including Republican Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens of Orange County, Crime Victims United and the Crime Victims Action Alliance. Police chiefs, sheriffs and attorneys across the state are banding together to see this proposition passed. Bonnie Dumanis, District Attorney of San Diego County, emphasized the need for prevention, citing recent work in her district for mentorship programs aimed at children, some of which even target students in elementary school. Reducing crime is important, and the stricter laws proposed by Proposition 6 would keep more criminals behind bars for longer periods of time, enabling the state to focus on preventing the development of new criminals.
With increased funding across the state and more focus on prevention by dealing with local issues that lead to juvenile gang membership, future incarceration could be prevented. This law seeks to keep criminals in prison and put dangerous gang members and violent criminals behind bars, thus lowering the crime rate. Proposition 6 is an investment in the future of California, one that would create a tougher, more appropriate legal system that combats the pervasive gang violence and places more power in the hands of victims and community members statewide.
Kerry Wakely is a first-year English major. He can be reached at email@example.com.