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California Democrats push anti-crime stance as crime skyrockets

Under current law, prosecutors must prove a vehicle was locked to convict a suspect of auto burglary, and a window being broken is not sufficient evidence.

Published: October 26, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

California state Democrats unveiled a new Select Committee on Retail Theft and a new proposal to end a major loophole limiting auto burglary convictions as part of their toughening stance on rising crime.

Under current law, prosecutors must prove a vehicle was locked to convict a suspect of auto burglary, and a window being broken is not sufficient evidence. This new proposed legislation from Sen. Scott Wiener, D–San Francisco, would end that requirement and allow forcible entry to be sufficient evidence for a conviction.

“San Francisco’s high rate of car break-ins is unacceptable, and we need to ensure our police and District Attorney have all the tools they need to address it and hold people accountable for committing this crime,” Wiener said in a public statement. “It defies logic that this loophole is causing charges to be dropped or reduced even when a prosecutor can prove the offender forcibly entered a vehicle intending to commit theft.”

Common situations in which prosecution is unable to secure a conviction include when someone broke a car window, completed a theft, and left the door open or unlocked, if a victim returns to the car and opens the door before police can take a report to establish the car was locked, if the victim forgets whether they locked their doors, or if the victim is not available to testify in court that their doors were locked.

“Our police officers are working hard every day to disrupt auto break-ins, and they are making progress,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “This important bill by Senator Wiener will give our District Attorney the ability to more aggressively prosecute these cases and send a message that if you break into cars in this city, you will be held accountable.”

California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, D–Hollister, also announced the formation of a Select Committee on Retail Theft following significant crime increases following a sharp reduction in 2020 due to lockdowns.

"Californians have had enough of these smash-and-grab crimes and shameless shoplifting incidents," Rivas said. "The Assembly understands we must do more to address root causes, protect businesses owners and fight criminal activity.”

The California Retailers Association, which represents retailers across the state, responded to the announcement with hope.

“Today's announcement of a Select Committee on Retail Theft is an encouraging sign that our state's policymakers are starting to take this growing crisis seriously,” said CRA president and CEO Rachel Michelin.

Republican leaders welcomed the proposed changes as well, including San Francisco Republican Party Chair John Dennis, who told The Center Square his garage has been broken into three times in the last year.

“After years of gaslighting Californians that crime wasn’t a problem, Democrat lawmakers are facing a backlash and now they’ve got to start getting the law and order muscles back in shape,” Dennis said. “These are positive measures.

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