California officials speak out against controversial crime bill

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – A California legislative proposal that reduces the penalty for committing armed robberies is drawing condemnation from a broad coalition who oppose the idea — They say it’s dangerous. 

However, the lawmaker behind the Senate Bill says it will prevent overcharging non-violent criminals.

“The Frederick Douglas Foundation wholeheartedly opposes this bill as a matter of fact in our opinion it is a crime in and of itself,” Reverend Walter Hoye, president of Frederick Douglas Foundation, said. 

California State Assembly Bill SB 82 would reduce robberies that do not involve a weapon or assault with great bodily injury from felony crimes to misdemeanors.

“Simply put, Senate Bill 82 will encourage more robberies to occur and creates a dangerous environment that puts all Californians in danger,” El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson said. 

This statewide coalition of community leaders, law enforcement officials and, victim’s rights advocates are sounding the alarm warning of what they say will be an incentive for more crimes being committed if the punishment is reduced. 

During the virtual press conference, video was played showing a man being robbed while doing his laundry in San Francisco. 

They say under current law the suspects would be charged with felonies but not under SB 82.

“A misdemeanor petty theft, which in this state there is no punishment essentially,” Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Annie Esposito said. 

“When somebody is a victim of a robbery it is more than just a physical attack. They have now been attacked emotionally financially in the most personal way,” Chief Executive Officer of Crime Survivors, Inc., Patricia Wenskunas said. 

Senator Nancy Skinner introduced SB 82 — KRON4 reached out to her office for an on-camera opportunity to be a part of this conversation, but received a press release that reads in part:

“SB 82 is the product of more than a year of careful consideration by California’s Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code, the membership of which includes judges and other legal experts… The purpose of SB 82 is simple: to clarify state law so that nonviolent cases of theft are not charged as violent felonies.”

“Californians do need better protection and this bill is just going in the opposite direction. It’s dangerous and must be rejected,” President of the Organization for Justice and Equality, Frank Lee said.

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