State Question 780, also known as, the Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform Act is on the ballot November 8, 2016, for consideration by that state’s residents. Its likely few Sooners appreciate the adverse impact SQ780 will have on the safety of their children, communities and businesses should this initiative pass in November.
SQ780 has two objectives 1) ease up on drug offenders and 2) ease up on property crime offenders by reducing felonies crimes to misdemeanors.
At a period in Oklahoma’s history where crime has been on the decline, proponents of SQ780 want to relax the very laws that have been the basis for that reduction in crime. The threat of a felony conviction can be an effective deterrent of criminal behavior. Removing the threat removes the deterrent. SQ780 would be welcomed by would-be criminal offenders and bad news for law abiding citizens.
SQ780, if passed, would permit drug dealers to operate more freely with the threat of arrest resulting in only a misdemeanor and not a felony. Law enforcement will be frustrated in their inability to effectively fight the distribution of drugs.
Not only will drug dealers get a break under SQ780, so will shoplifters, car thieves and burglars. SQ780 would double the value of what bad actors can steal by increasing the minimum property value from $500 to $1000 and still qualify as misdemeanor offense. Big box stores and small retailers should be very concerned over the anticipated doubling of their annual losses through theft should SQ780 become law. Where once a would-be shoplifter could only risk stealing a wireless 3D printer, they can now wheel out the back door a Whirlpool French Door Refrigerator risking only a small fine and a slap on the wrist.
SQ780 is modeled largely after California’s Proposition 47 which passed in 2014. The backers of Prop. 47 put lipstick on that pig claiming the proposed changes would reduce incarceration costs and the savings would be invested in drug and mental health treatment and provide assistance for at-risk students. There are few reports of any successes in these areas. However, there have been plenty of reports about the increase in property crimes and violent crimes throughout California. Shoplifting is up 12 percent, thefts close to 11 percent and violent crimes are up 8.4 percent since Proposition 47 became effective. The crime rate in the rest of the nation remains flat while California’s crime has increased. Passing SQ780 will generate the same result in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma should learn from the mistakes of California and not deviate from what has been working. Oklahomans’ should say no to criminal welfare, say no to SQ780.