Santa Barbara- S County

Police Chiefs call for law change to get more felony convictions

Shoplifters and burglars often get lesser penalty

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - California police chiefs say more criminals could be caught and prosecuted if a current law for some misdemeanor crimes is toughened up to a level similar to where the state had it in 2014.

That's when voters passed Proposition 47 to change many felonies to misdemeanors, which comes with a lighter penalty. 

For example, the theft of items of  $450 or more was a felony and under Proposition 47, it was raised to a threshold of $950.

Since then, many cities say crime has gone up and many thieves stealing from stores and cars are not worried.

"Usually they stick to what they believe they are good at. Or what they believe they are going to be caught at that may only rises to the level of a misdemeanor," said the Santa Barbara Police Department's Public Engagement Officer Anthony Wagner.

Under a new proposal in Sacramento, three offenses at $250 or more would then be an automatic felony.

Carpinteria resident Silvana Boggio said she would like to see help for criminals who may be jobless and without any means of support.   

"I think what is more important is what the punishment is. I think some sort of rehabilitation training, especially when they are young people, is more important than just sending them to jail. They will come out and do it again."

Police agree.

They also say business owners who are frustrated by the number of shoplifters should still call every time.

"When the business community calls,  we answer and we usually send two officers," said Wagner.

These days there are more cameras in and around parking garages,  or on private and public properties in your neighborhood  than ever.   "Regardless of where you are in the city there is a very good chance there is a camera that is potentially watching you," said Wagner.   

Santa Barbara has cameras inside parking kiosks and in many garages that are viewed by the downtown parking staff and police dispatchers.

Eric Voulgaris, the owner of Rooms & Gardens on State Street says he's avoided a car break in.  "We've been here for 26 years and fortunately I have never had one problem in this garage and I come here everyday for 26 years. I'm lucky"

During the holidays, shoppers are advised to hide their gifts in the trunk or keep them out of  sight to make it less appealing for thieves.

Some business owners say at times they have seen shoplifters with calculators to make sure that what they are taking is under $950 so if they get caught it will only be a misdemeanor.

In the Bay area when business owner Nate Schloss Business was there,  "You don't even lock your car at night because there is a pretty good chance if you lock it people want to know what is in it, they will smash the window and go through it.   So everybody left their car doors open and no valuables in there."

Even though the crimes might seem quick and easy such as daily shoplifting police want to be called.    "When the business community calls we answer, and we usually send two officers," said Wagner.


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