Prop Would Boost Cops, Target Gang Crime

Opponents say it costs too much, lacks accountabiity

Proposition 6 on the November ballot would guarantee $1 billion a year for statewide law enforcement, increase prison time for gang related crimes, drug dealing and vehicle theft. Opponents claim the taxpayers cannot afford the measure's cost, and that there are better ways to protect public safety.

It's called the "Safe Neighborhoods Act," and it has the support of every elected sheriff in California. Proposition 6 requires state funding of at least $965 million for some important crime fighting programs. Much of that money would go to local law enforcement , including police and sheriffs' departments, district attorney's offices,  jails and probation offices.

"But just as importantly, it provides money for prevention programs, but those programs must be held accountable for their success," says San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who signed the "Yes on 6" ballot argument.

Proposition 6 would also increase the penalties for certain crimes. It would subject gang members to life in prison if they are convicted of home robbery, carjacking, extortion or threatening a witness. If approved by voters, Prop. 6 would make methamphetamine possession a felony, instead of giving prosecutors the discretion to charge that crime as a misdemeanor. And it would generally prohibit probation for a conviction of car theft, if the offender has multiple prior convictions for that crime.

But critics say the price tag for Proposition 6 is just too high. "Our (state) debt has tripled in just the last six years, from $42 billion all the way to $135 billion now, and given the way the economy is, we just can't afford this any longer," says Adam Summers, of the Reason Foundation.

Prop. 6 opponents also say the ballot measure would threaten funding for important state programs, including education and children's health care. And they claim Prop. 6 would waste money on ineffective programs that are not accountable to taxpayers. For example, they say the state's Independent Analyst found that one Prop. 6 program, entitled "Citizens Options for Public Safety," has "no definable goals and no identifiable  results."

Opponent Summers say a ballot measure is not necessary to increase penalties for gang members and other criminals. That can be done by the state legislature or the court system, Summers explained.

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