DA Smittcamp backs Prop 47 measure

District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp advocates for Homeless, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act; slams Gov. Newsom for trying to derail the ballot measure

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, flanked by Clovis Police Lieutenant Craig Aranas, Fresno Police Deputy Chief Burke Farrah, Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni and Fresno County Probation Chief Kirk Haynes, at the press conference on June 18. (Fresno County District Attorney's office)
Darren Fraser
Published June 20, 2024  • 
12:30 pm

FRESNO COUNTY – Flanked by local law enforcement officials, Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp gave a fiery discussion regarding the Secretary of State’s approval of the Homeless, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act (Act) for the November General election.

Smittcamp is a vocal proponent of the Act, which, if passed, would reverse significant parts of Proposition 47. This would allow felony charges to be brought against those with two or more drug or theft convictions for possessing certain hard drugs, and for thefts under $950.

“Families destroyed by addiction and overdose deaths. Mothers and fathers unable to send their children to malls and parks without them being confronted by homeless and drug-addicted people,” Smittcamp said as she opened the press conference on June 13 from the District Attorney’s Office on Tulare Street.

On June 12, the Secretary of State’s office announced the measure to implement the Act had qualified for the November ballot by obtaining the required 601,317 signatures. According to Smittcamp, the measure has over 900,000 signatures statewide and over 14,000 are from Fresno County.

The news conference was as much about the measure as it was criticizing Gov. Newsom for trying to create obfuscation and roadblocks to reforming Proposition 47.

“Proposition 47 cannot be overturned by statute; it must be changed at the ballot,” she said. “But the Governor is invested in Proposition 47 because his overarching goal is to close prisons. But he can only justify closing prisons if there are no bodies in them.”

Smittcamp accused Newsom of bamboozling voters to save face with the political donors who have financed his campaigns.

“Newsom is a lame duck,” she said. “Two more years and he terms out. His political future depends on his ability to remain accountable to his donors.”

Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni said the measure has 100% support from law enforcement.

“Rampant retail theft is everywhere,” he said. “I see it when I am out with my kids.” He noted that Newsom and some legislators are trying to make sure any reform of Proposition 47 does not make it to the ballot.

“But this is not about politics,” he said. “This is about public safety and safer communities. We are all tired of seeing the homeless issue in our communities. We have the right to be able to vote on this. Whatever you hear out of Sacramento, listen to your local leaders in law enforcement. This will make drugs less available and reduce homelessness.”

WE’RE ALL PAYING FOR RETAIL THEFT

Smittcamp said there is a direct connection between rampant retail theft – particularly smash and grab theft – and drug addiction.

“Proposition 47 removed accountability,” said Smittcamp. “What matters to businesses is the bottom line. They’re not making money, so they’re closing. It all started with 47. Theft is exacerbated by drug addiction. Most people who are drug addicted, when they run out of resources, will immediately resort to theft when they reach that phase of addiction.”

Under the Act, a third conviction for drug possession can be charged as a felony. According to Smittcamp, the prospect of facing real jail time can serve as a wakeup call for an addict.

“If you’re arrested three times for drug possession, chances are you are addicted,” she said. “A felony arrest creates a bottom for the addict. It’s a wakeup call to get help.”

As for those critics who say incarceration does nothing to deter crime, Smittcamp calls their contentions nonsense.

“It’s junk science,” she said. “Ask anyone who has done time. They don’t want to go back to the joint.”

POISON PILL AMENDMENTS

Smittcamp congratulated two Democratic lawmakers for breaking with their party after amendments were added to proposed legislation – known in political parlance as poison pill amendments.

“The governor is trying to gain support for piecemeal legislation to be passed and is once again trying to mislead the voters of this state,” she said. “An effort yesterday to put a poison pill amendment into a packet of legislation that has been crafted to kill this initiative thankfully did not succeed. We are thrilled to hear that that legislation was killed yesterday in Sacramento.”

Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Sacramento, pulled his bill, Assembly Bill 1794, after Democrats attempted to add provisions to it. Under McCarty’s original bill, prosecutors could charge someone with felony grand theft if the total amount of theft was in excess of $950. Currently, under Proposition 47, the law considers the value of each item. If the amount is less than $950, the charge is a misdemeanor.

Assemblymember Esmeralda Soria, Fresno, previously endorsed Assembly Bill 1960, which would have created stiffer penalties for property crimes. After amendments were added to the bill, Soria removed her name from the legislation.

In a statement, Soria said, “We need greater accountability in California against repeat offenders who continue to engage in theft and harm our businesses. That is why I removed my name from AB 1960.”

Smittcamp concluded the conference by reminding her audience that reforming Proposition 47 will be a long-term process.

“They’re (offenders) given the opportunity to be involved in programming that will, hopefully, redirect them into a better way of life. When people’s minds are clear, they are better sisters, brothers, husbands, wives and children,” she said.

Darren Fraser
Reporter