Riverside County, California, Sheriff Chad Bianco is helping lead an effort to reverse a 2012 ballot measure he says is directly contributing to the homelessness and crime crisis in the Golden State and is calling on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to get on board.

“California, we’re in a very trying time right now when it comes to public safety and for the most part, from a law enforcement perspective, we can say that, we can attribute the majority of our issues that we are having, or at least, there’s some type of a correlation to them, to the passage of Prop 47 in 2012,” Bianco told Fox News Digital.

Prop 47, passed in 2012, reclassified a number of felonies, including retail and property theft, as misdemeanors. Under Prop 47, petty theft of goods valued under $950 is classified as a misdemeanor, even for multiple offenses. It also took a broad swath of narcotics possession offenses that were previously felonies and converted them to misdemeanors.

Bianco told Fox News Digital that voters were “lied to” about that measure, which he says has contributed to a deterioration in public safety.

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Quite frankly, we were lied to and misled by our state, in that the name and the description on the ballot was not something that we were getting,” Bianco explained. “We voted for a proposition that was named the Safe Schools and the Safe Streets Initiative and it contained absolutely nothing to do with safe streets or safe schools, and it was everything that is bad about public safety right now, directly contributing to the increase in homelessness, mental health and drug addiction. Directly resulted in what we see now in our serial theft cases, in our retail theft cases and issues in crime of residential burglaries and those types of things.”

The ballot measure Bianco is hoping will be on the ballot this November, which he calls the Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act, will undo the lowering of narcotics possession penalties from felonies to misdemeanors, will allow judges to recommend rehab for drug and substance abuse, and will allow prosecutors to add the value amount of multiple thefts together in order to meet the $950 threshold set by Prop 47 thus cracking down on serial thefts.

If you need help to get fixed, then we should be able to help you. If you just flat out refuse, and you’re going to continue to use drugs and cause us all to be victimized by your drug addiction and your theft and everything else, then you’re going to suffer the consequences of jail time,” Bianco said. 

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Sheriff Bianco

It’s just plain and simple. But the reality is, without consequences, there is no reason for anyone to change behavior, and we need to get past this feel good way of what our legislators are doing now in this, this notion that it’s somebody else’s fault and you’re not responsible for your own actions. We need to move past that, and we need to get back to a time of common sense that would tell us if we can put you in rehab and help you, then great. We’ve helped you. We’ve helped society. But otherwise, then you’re going to have to do jail time, so we stop you from victimizing the rest of us.”

Newsom has signaled he opposes the changes to Prop 47, which Bianco says is an example of a failure of leadership.

“The governor is going to have no choice but to get on board because this is 100% complete common sense,” Bianco said. “We have a complete failed political agenda in this state. It’s been a social experiment that has been led by the governor, from his time as mayor of San Francisco, into lieutenant governor and now governor, which has been made worse by our attorney general, who has absolutely no desire to fix any of these issues with crime and protect Californians.

Right now, they are against it because, in elementary terms, I guess they’re going to have to admit that Prop 47 was a disaster that they have tried to defend for years since its passing and the reality of a leader, a true leader, is someone that can say, ‘Look, we had good intentions of something, but, we had some unintended consequences that now we have to fix.’ That would have been a leadership way for our government to come out of this ahead. But instead, for the past 10 years, they have completely defended Prop 47. They have lied to the public.

While unveiling his budget plan earlier this year, Newsom took issue with the accusation he is unwilling to alter Prop 47 and made the case that the issue does not need to be sent back to the voters in November. Newsom also pointed to his plan to address the crime issue and suggested amending Prop 47 is not necessary.

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Gov Gavin Newsom

“So it’s not that,” the governor said, referring to a presentation slide showing that the $950 retail theft threshold is the 10th lowest in the nation. “Everyone I know is rushing to reform Prop 47 to raise the threshold, OK, that’s not the fundamental issue, the issue is the other issues that are not 47 related, the things we advanced yesterday and are working with the legislature on and that is the nature of retail theft has changed, it’s not just the onesie twosies, yes that’s an issue I don’t deny that that’s why we’ve put hundreds of millions of dollars up, but it’s also become deeply organized and that’s what we need to go after and that’s a whole different thing.”

Newsom continued, “I said this years go when someone said you gotta reform 47. I said I’m open to argument, interested in evidence. I’m not an idealogue on this. Remember, I’m the only guy that can say that, I’m the only one that has reformed Prop 47. I did a ballot initiative as it relates to the gun threshold and made that threshold a felony under $1,000 for possession of an illegal gun, so I’ve reformed it, only one with credibility on this, on that basis at least, and believe that we need to more and put hundreds of millions up, a lot of these same people criticizing us voted against those new dollars.”

Newsom said critics are using Prop 47 as an “excuse” and are “unaware” of some of the facts.

“I think it’s important to level with people,” Newsom added. “Again, not to say everything about 47 is hunky-dory and perfect. We want to fix some of the ambiguities, but we can do it without reforming or going back to the voters themselves. That’s what we proposed yesterday.”

Bianco rejected the notion that the issues with Prop 47 can be solved with new legislation or tweaks by officials in Sacramento and said politicians who support Prop 47 know it is unpopular in an election year and are simply placating voters by suggesting they have a plan to address the issue.

“They are coming up in this legislative session with bills that that appear on the surface to make the necessary changes that we’re trying to do with the proposition that we have for the ballot,” Bianco said. 

“Here is the problem. What they are telling us in the bills that they have introduced are hollow. The bills are, even if they pass them, they are not able to be enforced because Proposition 47 was a ballot initiative and laws created by voters. The only way we can fix that is by putting it back to the voters and have the voters fix it. We need to have this proposition passed so we can make the changes to Prop 47 that really are required for a better California.”

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Smash and grab robbers in jewelry store

Not all Democrats in California agree with Newsom, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who has offered her support of altering Prop 47 and believes it would make a positive difference.

“The Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act will make targeted but impactful changes to our laws around fentanyl and help us tackle the chronic retail theft that hurts our retailers, our workers, and our cities,” Breed said. “I fully support this measure and know it will make a meaningful difference for cities across California.” 

Polling in the last few years has shown that the majority of Californians support changes to Prop 47 and Bianco told Fox News Digital that’s the way the majority of voters he talks to feel.

“The voters have had enough,” Bianco said. “The voters are tired of what we’re seeing on TV with these smash and grabs. They’re tired of having their property stolen. They’re tired of seeing major retail businesses close in California and move their businesses out of state. We are experiencing a crisis here and our government leaders are doing nothing to combat it.”

Organizers are currently gathering signatures for the proposition to meet the 546,000 signatures needed by the deadline later this month. Bianco says the campaign has “well over” enough signatures, but the final number won’t be known until the signatures are verified.

California capitol aerial view

Bianco says he is optimistic the measure will be on the ballot, but if it isn’t, the sheriff told Fox News Digital the crime situation will only get worse in the Golden State.

We will be doing nothing but going downhill further,” Bianco said. “Crime will just remain rampant. Drugs will remain rampant. The disaster that we have with fentanyl and fentanyl dealers will continue to grow. More and more people will die of fentanyl overdoses and poisonings, and the smash and grab theft, this emboldened movement of criminals, will just be, it’s just going to get worse and worse.

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