Disguising a Public Safety Crisis as a Housing Crisis.

Homelessness is epidemic in California, and the Democrats are only making it worse.

(Dearsomeone. Flickr. Creative Commons)

The newest homeless camp emerged by the very upscale Sunkist Park neighborhood of Culver City, Los Angeles. First a couple of tents, then more, then it becomes a city in its own right – entitled to services such as sanitation clean up. Finally, we have a permanent camp with property rights.

Is it an issue of “affordable housing” as the Democrats claim? No, there’s something deeper going on.

These camps are a breeding ground for petty crime, drugs, and disease such as scabies and staphylococcus.

Recently, Dr. Drew warned of the “epidemic typhus” which we haven’t seen since the civil war. It has already begun to affect LAPD employees. Even measles has started to make its way into camps. The situation promises to get worse because government is declining to enforce vagrancy laws, creating a city where anyone can take up residence anywhere.

The camps are also a breeding ground for crime.

They host burglars that brazenly display the bounty of their thievery. Hundreds of bicycles and fixtures from resident homes festoon their tent blocks that are, in reality, open air chop shops where the belongings of local citizens are traded for cash and drugs. Local residents and police are powerless to do anything about it because they have become a population of criminals immune from the reach of the law. This unchecked criminal activity is dangerous because it serves to embolden what may have been a one-time offender, encouraging burglary as a way of life, and why not? We all but invite it.

So how did we get here? Is it an issue of “affordable housing” as the Democrats claim? No, there’s something deeper going on.

california homeless camp

(Russ Allison Loar. Creative Commons. Flickr)

This issue began in 2006, when the ACLU won a case against law enforcement. The 9th circuit court of appeals argued that police can’t break up homeless camps if the people “have nowhere to go.” They hailed this victory as an “end to criminalizing homelessness” – an outright lie, as evidenced by cities like Laguna Niguel. Even after they created a homeless shelter, ACLU sued them a second time.

A few years ago, California’s prisons became so bad that the federal government sued the state to reduce prison overcrowding.

Any impartial person can see where this ruling would go. If anybody can sleep anywhere, with no repercussions, then that’s exactly what people do. And that’s what’s happening – this policy attracts more homeless to come and settle here. Their camps pop up everywhere – in rich neighborhoods, in poor neighborhoods, on the beach in front of multimillion-dollar homes.

As if the ACLU ruling wasn’t bad enough, the state of California watered down its penal system to make petty crime impossible to combat. A few years ago, California’s prisons became so bad that the federal government sued the state to reduce prison overcrowding. Rather than build prisons to match population growth or find better ways to keep residents safe from criminals, state Democrats instead released everyone they could.

Enter Props 47, 57, and AB109. Let’s recap how state Democrats hoodwink well-intentioned voters to pass laws that work so disastrously against us:

Prop 47: Reclassifies drug and property crimes as misdemeanors rather than felonies. This is what’s made the criminal element of these camps impossible to prosecute. Shoplifters, bike thieves, pimps and drug pushers now act with impunity, because they know nobody is coming after them. As constituents have told me, there are legitimate homeless in these camps, but the criminals hide among them. As long as we can’t prosecute the criminals, these camps remain a hotbed of crime.

Prop 57: Grants early release to “non-violent offenders.” The catch is the drafters never defined which offenses were non-violent. This has led to the release of some rather violent people. “Sex traffickers, rapists, abusive spouses and even drive-by shooters have qualified for early release under the state’s nonviolent parole process.”

AB109: Amends more than 500 criminal statutes, reduces penalties for parole violations, and shifts thousands of convicted felons from state prison to county jails. This is the big one. Democrats love to talk about how the mentally ill shouldn’t be put in jail. But our old prison system had programs to take care of the mentally ill and get them the help they need. Now petty criminals must share county jails with hardened criminals who belong in more secure facilities. This kills our ability to treat people and burdens jails with a function they can’t handle.

Homelessness in California

(Russ Allison Loar. Creative Commons. Flickr)

In all three laws, we see how state Democrats hoodwinked voters. This is their modus operandi. They use pretty phrases like “rehabilitation,” “victimless crimes,” and “don’t criminalize homelessness” to hide the reality that they’re just backing out of the public safety business. They simply don’t care about your safety, or mine. Meanwhile, they have no problem keeping where they live and work safe and clean.

Every homeless person who wanders into our city is owed a free house and stipend, and needles, and we have to give it to them.

Even our public health system is under siege. Our representative Karen Bass brags about the Community Coalition she created. She funneled $3 million from the Center for Disease Control to this organization – which is basically out campaigning for Democrats. That money could be better spent, maybe, studying the various diseases that threaten to overwhelm our district? Diseases that we thought we eradicated a century ago?

Democrats have watered down our penal system, and this is the result. Now they’re taking this public safety crisis of their making and are using it as an excuse to take over people’s homes and neighborhoods.

They pretend it’s a problem with housing costs, and they need to regulate our homes to solve this problem they created. SB50, Prop 10, the repeal of Prop 13, they relentlessly push all these issues in the name of “affordable housing” and point to these tent cities as a problem this will solve.

Yes, that’s right. Every homeless person who wanders into our city is owed a free house and stipend, and needles, and we have to give it to them. Meanwhile Democrats pass more taxes on working citizens, like Measures H and HHH, to pretend they’re solving the problem. It’s been over two years since these measures were passed and we’re seeing no signs of the money being spent anywhere they promised. The places they have spent the money have been a monument to crony capitalism.

california homeless camp

(Russ Allison Loar. Creative Commons. Flickr)

Under the current trajectory, this problem is on the fast track to madness and ruin. So how do we turn this around?

First, as conservatives we need to drop the illusion that this issue is because of liberal California voters. This started with the ACLU rulings, and is a textbook case of legislation through the judiciary. It’s led to immense frustration among both residents and law enforcement, who now feel powerless to keep our own neighborhoods safe and clean.

We do not owe people housing, less so in the middle of high rent districts, least of all to petty criminals and addicts who quickly ruin it and the surrounding neighborhood.

Neither will this issue stay in California. The ACLU is already building on the precedents they set here, and taking them into lawsuits in states like Texas, Florida, and Vermont, to name a few.

We have several avenues to push back on this. The obvious, but tricky one, is the judicial avenue. Next time the ACLU files a lawsuit against a city, we need to be ready, and we need the city to be ready. Once they lose the lawsuit they will need to appeal it beyond the very politicized 9th circuit court of appeals – or any court that draws on their ruling as a precedent.

The other avenue is the legislative. And by this, I don’t imply having any faith in our legislators. Rather, we need to make a political movement to push back on these disastrous propositions. We need to bring back proper law enforcement as a keystone of public health safety.

But this one rests on the final avenue – the ideological. And that is, law enforcement are our friends and allies, not the enemy.

Public safety is a right and a duty of government. Loosening penalties on crimes means people commit more of them, and ignoring lesser crimes means we deal with greater crimes. Broken windows policies work, like it or not. We do not owe people housing in the middle of high rent districts, least of all to petty criminals.

Ron Bassilian was the GOP candidate for CA’s 37th congressional district in 2018. You can read more about his take on the homeless issue at ronfor37.org/homeless

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