By Jorge Casuso

February 12, 2024 — Santa Monica Mayor Phil Brock on Monday became the first mayor in Los Angeles County to endorse a proposed statewide ballot measure that will toughen penalties for drug and theft crimes.

Brock added his name to the list of backers four days after the mayors of San Jose and San Francisco — the Bay area’s biggest cities — supported the California Increase Drug and Theft Penalties and Reduce Homelessness Initiative.

Brock said he is urging Westside and South Bay mayors, as well as Santa Monica City Councilmembers, to endorse the effort to reform Prop 47, a statewide ballot measure approved in 2014 that reduced the prison population by reclassifying certain crimes as misdemeanors.

The proposed measure imposes stronger penalties for those engaged in the trafficking of hard drugs and for repeat offenders of drug possession and retail theft.

“There’s no doubt that we need to reform (Prop 47)” said Brock, who ran on a public safety platform in 2020. “I believe the (proposed) measure is essential.

“The pendulum swings sometimes way too far, and people think we have to swing back to the middle,” Brock said. “There are thing we have to do (at the State level) because the county is not doing it.”

There has been a growing backlash against Prop 47, which re-categorized some nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors, including drug possession and all thefts under $950.

The proposed measure would give prosecutors the discretion to charge a felony for hard drug possession after two previous drug convictions, while allowing those who plead guilty and complete treatment to have the charges dismissed.

In addition, “an offender with two prior convictions for theft can be charged with a felony, regardless of the value of the stolen property,” according to the text of the proposed measure.

“Along with the hard drug provisions in this Act, these theft law changes will stop the vicious cycle of hard drug users stealing to support their habits without legal consequences for their actions,” the text states.

On Thursday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan backed the proposed measure.

“We cannot be afraid to challenge the status quo when it is clearly not working for our residents,” Mahan said in a statement Thursday.

“Prop 47 was well-intended but what really matters is its impact — and unfortunately, it’s hurting far too many families and small businesses across the state.

“We need reform that doesn’t take us back to the era of mass incarceration but allows judges to mandate treatment for those struggling with severe addiction, hold repeat offenders accountable, and treat fentanyl like the killer it is.”

Breed said San Francisco is “making progress on property crimes, but the challenges we are facing related to fentanyl and organized retail theft require real change to our state laws.”

The proposed initiative, she said, “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.”

Greg Totten, campaign chair for the California Increase Drug and Theft Penalties and Reduce Homelessness Initiative, said Brock is the first mayor in LA County to endorse the measure.

“We’re thrilled to have him support the initiative,” Totten said. “There are a number of other mayors that are expected to come on.”

The campaign has collected some 400,000 signatures and has until April 26 to gather the 546,651 valid signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, he said.

“People are standing in line to sign it,” said Totten, who is CEO of the California District Attorneys Association. “Here in California, we’re at a tipping point.”