Gangs, guns and meth: They’re problems inextricably tied to street crime in California.
Backers of Proposition 6, also known as the Safe Neighborhoods Act, say the way to combat these problems is to guarantee a certain level of funding for police and prosecutors. Opponents attack the measure’s lack of an identified funding source.
In particular, Prop 6 would require the state to allocate a minimum of $965 million from the General Fund to police, sheriffs, district attorneys, adult probation, jails and juvenile probation facilities. This minimum funding level would not be tied to any specific funding source.
Prop 6 also makes approximately 30 revisions to criminal laws in the state, primarily focused on gang crime. Most of the changes make penalties more stringent and create new crimes.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office says the measure will cost the state an additional $500 million annually within a few years, increasing by the tens of millions of dollars in subsequent years. Since it would expand the prison population, it could end up costing the state another $500 million to build and expand prison facilities.
District attorney Jeff Reisig has endorsed Prop 6, saying it targets the biggest threats to public safety in the county.
“The surging gang violence in Yolo County over the last 10 years has been incredible,” he said. “About 80 percent of our homicides have been gang-related, and the number of gun crimes we have prosecuted has exploded.“
Reisig said drug problems have seriously contributed to rising crimes.
“Without a doubt methamphetamine is probably the most heinous drug that’s out there, and it’s usually involved in a lot of this,” he said. “I’ve handled half a dozen homicides in the last five years and every single one of them involved methamphetamine, including the most recent death penalty case [of Marco Antonio Topete, who is accused of murdering a Yolo County sheriff’s deputy].“
Prop 6 is about making sure there’s enough money for law enforcement and prosecutors to limit the impact of gang crime, he said.
“Because of the budget crunch this year we’ve had to scale back our outreach efforts, where we would normally be going into schools to talk to kids about gangs, guns and drugs,” he said.
Prop 6 is supported by a large number of law enforcement organizations, sheriffs, police chiefs and district attorneys.
Opponents to the measure say it is unacceptable because of the way it constrains the state budget.
“We oppose ballot box budgeting in general,” said Roy Ulrich, president of the California Tax Reform Association, which is opposing Prop 6. “It’s like a straight jacket. We’ve got enough previous initiatives that lock in funding, and the result is the legislature has less flexibility in dealing with budget problems.“
Ulrich said in bad budget years, this could result in far less funding for K-12 education, community colleges, job programs, health care, transportation and emergency services. There are also serious accountability problems with the measure, he said.
“Prop 6 permanently earmarks $125 million for a program called COPS, which the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommended not be funded,” he said. “There’s no accountability really for how the money is spent year to year.“
Some of the funding from Prop 6 would be allocated directly to local law enforcement, which presumably includes the Davis Police Department, said City of Davis assistant city manager Paul Navazio.
“It adds about $33.5 million on a statewide basis, to be allocated roughly on a per capita basis,” he said. “That’s about a dollar a person.“
The city has not done any detailed analysis on what exactly the city would receive, he said.
For more information on Prop 6, visit voterguide.sos.ca.gov. To read articles on the other propositions on the ballot next month, visit theaggie.org.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.