SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – Did Prop 47 backfire on businesses?

Businesses in East County said the relatively new law leaves them holding the bag and lets shoplifters off the hook.

Voters passed Prop 47, which can reduce the penalties for some nonviolent crimes, three years ago. It re-categorizes nonviolent offenses like shoplifting as misdemeanors instead of felonies.

Hani Toma is an El Cajon business owner who has grown frustrated with changes that impose lighter penalties for thefts of items worth less than $950.

“That’s encouraging people to steal more, and you can’t do nothing about it,” said Toma.

Opponents said Prop 47 emboldens criminals even if they are caught.

“Usually the person gives a false name. They don’t have an identification. The ticket goes from their hand into the trash and effectively nothing happens. Effectively, in the state of California it is legal to steal up to $950 without punishment,” said El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells. 

Proponents, however, said the proposition achieved its core mission of reducing the jail and prison populations.

“Even though the concept of this might be tenderhearted, it is not doing the homeless population any favors to enable homelessness,” said Mayor Wells. 

Business owners like Toma said they are the ones left to pay the price of crime. “It is not easy to make $950 a day. We don’t make it in a day. Go to a neighbor liquor store. Steal from him, then what happens?”