The Yiddish word for it is chutzpah, but there are other, more prosaic terms that come to mind as well, like “obtuse,” or perhaps “clueless.” I refer to a recent public service announcement from George Gascón, district attorney of Los Angeles County, in which he educates the crime-weary citizens of that sprawling county on how to avoid having their cars stolen.
Gascón is one of the so-called “progressive” prosecutors recently installed across the country, men and women who persuaded sufficient numbers of voters to share their childlike fantasy that criminals, no matter how hardened, will mend their ways if we would but treat them more kindly. Alas, any evidence that this is not merely a fantasy remains elusive.
Like his progressive comrades, Gascón campaigned on claims that the criminal justice system is unduly harsh on defendants, most especially those “of color.” Flush with cash from George Soros and other deep-pocketed leftists, Gascón defeated incumbent Jackie Lacey in 2020, riding the national wave of anti-police sentiment that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Immediately upon taking office, he implemented changes that would have the effect of decreasing the overall number of prosecutions in L.A. County and minimizing the sentences of those so depraved as to be unworthy of outright dismissal of their charges.
Turn 'em loose, George.
He also eliminated cash bail for most defendants, declined to seek the death penalty in even the most heinous murder cases, and ended the practice of trying juveniles accused of murder in adult court, no matter how many they may have killed, how cruelly they may have carried out the killing, or how near to turning 18 they may have been at the time they killed. GranWhat has followed comes as no surprise to anyone not still clinging to the notion that crime can be reduced by softening the consequences on those who perpetrate it. In the city of Los Angeles, by far the largest of L.A. County’s 88 municipalities, violent crime is up 12 percent since 2020, with homicides up 18 percent.
An uninformed view of the property crime numbers is less bleak; it’s up just 1 percent over the same period. But the informed reader knows this number reflects only those crimes reported to the police, and in Los Angeles, as in every other city where progressive prosecutors have set about emptying the jails and prisons, many victims of property crimes simply don’t bother to call the police, for they know it will take hours for the officers to arrive and that little or nothing will be done to identify and arrest the culprits.
But rare is the man so blasé about having his car stolen that he does not report its loss, so the auto theft numbers provide what may be a more accurate picture of the trend in property crimes. In Los Angeles, auto theft is up 44 percent since 2020, prompting Gascón to issue his farcical admonishment to lock your car and not leave a spare key in it. He also advises to park in a well-lit area, oblivious to the fact that for some Angelenos the nearest well-lit area may be miles away because the local hoodlums, among whom are many who would be in jail but for his policies, have shot out all the streetlights.
Gascón is now facing a recall effort, the second one attempted after the first fell short of obtaining a sufficient number of signatures. Crime and disorder now so weigh on the minds of L.A. County residents that 33 city councils within the county, including those in such well-heeled, leafy burgs as Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach, and Palos Verdes Estates, have passed no-confidence resolutions on Gascón and his failed policies.
Why is this man smiling?
Predictably coming to Gascón’s rescue, like a mother to a threatened child, is the Los Angeles Times, which endorsed his election and has run several stories and opinion pieces (to the extent there is a difference) minimizing his role in rising crime, the latest of which ran on April 1 under the headline, “Is it fair to blame Gascón alone for L.A.’s violent crime surge? Here’s what the data show.”
The story, by Times staff writer James Queally, is a masterpiece in the technique, so common in today’s journalism, of providing accurate data while conveying a misleading message. “Proponents of the effort to recall Gascón,” he writes, “have accused him of creating a ‘pro-criminal paradise’ and causing a crime spike through policies aimed at reducing mass incarceration, including his refusal to try juveniles as adults, prosecute certain misdemeanors or file most sentencing enhancements.” He continues:
But an analysis of the L.A. County district attorney’s office filing rates, homicide solve rates and crime statistics paints a far more complicated picture of the surge in violence than the one some of Gascón’s enemies have sketched.
True enough. No one well versed in the issues would claim Gascón, or any prosecutor, is the sole factor influencing crime rates. But then comes the journalistic sleight of hand. Queally cites data that shows Gascón’s office has filed felony charges at a rate similar to that of his predecessor, as if to suggest filing rates are the only measures by which a prosecutor should be judged. Just as important, if not more so, is the expectation among criminals of a lengthy prison sentence should they be convicted of a serious crime. Many people would be surprised to learn that to some criminals the prospect of a few months in the county jail, or even of a few years in state prison, is not a deterrent to their predatory habits. Indeed, to some gang members a stretch in jail or prison is a badge of honor, lending to their prestige among their peers.
Picking up the pieces of a civilization that no longer exists.
It is in this regard that Gascón is at once both a symptom of the current crime wave and, yes, a cause of it. The anti-police hysteria that engulfed the country following George Floyd’s death helped bring Gascón into office, but it also so demoralized America’s cops that few are willing to risk their lives and livelihoods by doing the type of proactive police work that stemmed the crime wave of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. In Los Angeles, arrests are down 31 percent from two years ago; even the most aggressive of prosecutors can’t stem a crime wave if the police aren’t bringing lawbreakers to court. Pair an unmotivated police force with a prosecutor of Gascón’s inclinations and you have a recipe for unchecked crime.
Perhaps chastened by the latest recall effort, Gascón has displayed heretofore unseen flexibility on some of his policies, for example backtracking on his ludicrous decision to prosecute in juvenile court the case of a 26-year-old transgender woman who, as male just short of his 18th birthday, sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl in the bathroom of a Palmdale restaurant.
However much he backtracks, it may not be enough to avoid a recall. Recall organizers say they have collected 200,000 of the 567,000 signatures they need to put the matter to a vote. Even George Soros may not be able to save him now.