Addiction Counselors Say Fentanyl Is Now In Most Drugs. It’s Replacing Heroin in Stanislaus Region

The New Hope Recovery House in Modesto used to treat heroin addicts, including people who first got hooked on prescription narcotic painkillers and then sought heroin to prevent withdrawal pains. That was a syndrome of the earlier stages of the nation’s opioid epidemic. Now, heroin has disappeared. And many are seeking treatment for addiction to fentanyl, said an intake counselor at New Hope. “No heroin addicts are coming in,” Counselor Theresa Frassrand said. “You can’t find heroin because the fentanyl is so prevalent.” Staff members at New Hope on East Orangeburg Avenue were among the first to alert media, in June 2020, that fentanyl had arrived on Modesto’s streets. Illegal fentanyl resulted in 5,961 overdose deaths in California in 2021. In the past three years, co-owner Shawna Phillips and substance use counselors have watched the highly lethal fentanyl become widespread in Stanislaus County. The synthetic opioid powder is combined with most illegal drugs including methamphetamine, cocaine, pills and any available heroin, supposedly to enhance the high and reduce the cost.

“Marijuana is testing positive for fentanyl,” Phillips said. Only about 2 milligrams of fentanyl is lethal, which accounts for the 366 fentanyl overdose deaths in Stanislaus County since 2020, including more than 80 since January. Total overdose deaths are expected to exceed 200 in 2023, or four to five per week. New Hope Recovery has residential care for 30 people, outpatient counseling and detox service, and stresses one-on-one counseling that gets to the root of substance use. About 70% of the clientele suffer from alcohol dependence. Of those addicted to drugs, staff said, half were taking methamphetamine and half were on fentanyl, whether they knew it or not. Frassrand said some people who come through her intake office don’t know the drugs they were taking contained fentanyl, until they test positive for it. LAB COULD NOT TEST FOR ‘TRANQ’ Phillips was preparing last week for the latest scourge of the Central Valley fentanyl crisis. The lab used by New Hope could not test for “tranq”, which surfaced in Stanislaus County two months ago, but Phillips arranged for a Southern California lab to test clients’ urine samples for the drug. Xylazine combined with fentanyl, also known as tranq, causes skin lesions and severe infections in those that inject the drug. Users suffer the loss of mental function, and xylazine, a horse tranquilizer, does not respond to overdose-reversing Narcan nasal spray. Phillips said she hasn’t seen anyone who has used tranq come to the center for help. “It’s limited now, but I think it’s coming,” she said. Phillips said some clients have knowingly used deadly street fentanyl and are trying to break the addiction. “I ask them ‘does it not terrify you?’” Phillips said. “What they say is it lasts longer and is so much cheaper. A lot of them are injecting it. When they are knowingly using fentanyl, they are usually IV users.” FENTANYL USERS MUST OVERCOME INTENSE CRAVINGS Clients hoping to get clean struggle with the intense cravings of fentanyl use. Phillips said those going through detox have agonizing withdrawal symptoms, and staff need to give them stronger medication to treat the effects. People who leave treatment prematurely run a high risk of using again, so the center works harder to motivate them to stay in treatment, Phillips added. Amy Northern, 42, of Modesto, who’s in counseling at New Hope, said she didn’t have a choice in switching from heroin to fentanyl. The heroin supply dried up. And she didn’t want to suffer severe withdrawal pains, she said. Northern said she overdosed on fentanyl a number of times and was taken by ambulance to hospitals. She has been clean since January and gets support from outpatient classes at the center. “If I go back on it again, it will kill me,” Northern said.

The staff at the community-oriented treatment center are well aware of tragedies of former fentanyl-addicted clients who relapse. “We stay connected with patients and their families and we have been invited to more funerals or received phone calls about people we know who passed away,” Phillips said. Many people working in the addiction field, who often have a substance use background, have lost family members to fentanyl, she said. FENTANYL COMBINED WITH MANY DRUGS Stanislaus County recorded some fentanyl deaths before 2020, including 16 in 2019 and 10 in 2018. Illegal manufacturing of the synthetic opioid was a later development of the national opioid crisis that sprang from over-prescribing of narcotic pain medication. Fentanyl became more prevalent here in 2020 with fake pills made by drug traffickers to look like oxycodone, Xanax and other prescription drugs. The county’s 60 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2020 grew to 97 in 2021 and 128 in 2022. Drug traffickers are now combining fentanyl with many other drugs and don’t have standards to keep the fentanyl content within safe limits. As fentanyl continues to run rampant, the New Hope staff are trying to maintain the center’s success rate, which they boast is well above the national average. Phillips said there are substance use resources in the community but not enough coordination to help people find those services. Recovery services run into problems in getting private insurance to cover treatment for addiction. “A lot of people can’t stay clean on their own,” Phillips said. “They need to learn abstinence and need a period of time to stay clean. Insurance usually covers 30 days of residential care before it steps down to outpatient classes. Longer treatment has been proven (to achieve) better outcomes.”

Click here to read full article in the Modesto Bee

Nearly Naked Prostitutes Prowl Streets in Broad Daylight, but California Law Ties Police Hands: Mayor

Women wearing only “g-strings” while bending over in front of traffic has become an increasingly common sight in National City, California, as prostitution issues spiral after the implementation of a controversial state law, the city’s mayor told Fox News Digital.

“They’re waving to people on the freeway or, just to be honest with you, they are bending over for the freeway. I don’t know how else to put it; they’re showing their wares,” National City Mayor Ron Morrison told Fox News Digital in an interview this month.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 357 in July 2022, which repealed a previous law that banned loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution. The law took effect in January this year, with Morrison arguing that the moment Newsom’s pen touched the bill, pimps in the state knew they could expand their prostitution ventures with little repercussions from law enforcement.

“The moment it was signed by the governor, boom, everyone knew the rules were out the window,” Morrison told Fox News Digital.

“Those that are out there on the street, most of them are wearing less than what you would consider a scanty negligee. It is just flaunting in everybody’s face. And so a lot of people are screaming, ‘Hey, you know, can’t you get them on indecent exposure?’ And the problem is the way our laws read in this state. The definition of indecent exposure is as long … as the genitals are covered. Anything else is fair game out in public.”

National City is a diverse working-class city of roughly 60,000 residents just outside San Diego on the bay, Morrison said. Prostitution issues are no stranger to the city, with the mayor explaining that as an urban area, sex workers have been known to cross the San Diego city border – but never at the rate he’s currently seeing.

“Very much beyond brazen,” Morrison said of what he’s seeing on his streets.

Prostitutes gather in a downtown area that faces a freeway and are most often seen early in the morning and around 3 p.m. Morrison added that another new California law that legalized jaywalking has compounded the issues as some women stand in traffic to attract a john. 

“I was driving on one of the streets the other day, and there’s this young lady standing there in the middle of the street wearing basically a G-string, and that was it, and a couple pasties. But she’s right in front of my car, I couldn’t move. So, I did ask her very politely, ‘Would you please move out of the street?’ And she looked at me and says, ‘If you don’t want to talk to me, you can go around,'” Morrison said.

Businesses, ranging from mom-and-pop stores to national hotel chains, have sounded off to the mayor that the prostitutes are driving away business and have forced some businesses to refund families who were appalled at seeing nearly naked women while on their California getaway.

Even a local school covered its windows after prostitutes were repeatedly found hanging out near its gates, Morrison said. 

The mayor argues that the issue comes down to Senate Bill 357, which he called an “idiotic law” that should be known as the “Safe Streets for Pimps Initiative,” which has allegedly not only left his town and other municipalities in the state dealing with an increase of sex workers on the street, but it has also incentivized human trafficking.

“This one has just opened the doors to prostitution, sex trafficking, child sex trading, I mean, you name it. This has obviously done that. And I don’t think anyone that is not just purely politically motivated could disagree with that,” Morrison said.

The mayor described himself as a “nonpartisan” who has worked at various levels of government over more than 30 years, whose main focus is to “look out for people in National City and their businesses” and not play politics in Sacramento.

Senate Bill 357 was authored by Democrat state Sen. Scott Wiener, who championed the bill as one that would help protect transgender women from being targeted by police.

“[The previous law] allowed police officers to arrest a person, not based on what they did but based solely on how a person looks,” Wiener told local media earlier this year. “So, an officer could arrest someone because they were wearing tight clothing, high heels and extra lipstick.”

Fox News Digital previously spoke with members of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), which is one of the largest and oldest direct service providers for sex and labor trafficking survivors in the U.S., who said they supported the bill “because we know that reducing the criminalization of survivors will help prevent human trafficking.”

“Traffickers rely on our systems to criminalize victims so that they are unable to access safety due to their records and are vulnerable to continued exploitation,” Leigh LaChapelle, CAST’s associate director of survivor advocacy, told Fox News earlier this year after the law took effect.

“The impact of these encounters with law enforcement reinforce already heightened stigma when someone is arrested for this offense due to the difficulties securing employment and safe housing with an arrest record relating to the sex trade,” LaChapelle added. “Violation of this discriminatory law also puts immigrants in jeopardy of deportation, loss of residency or denial of reentry due to a misdemeanor conviction.”

Prostitution is still illegal in California, but Morrison said the new law has effectively legalized the crime as police back off from intervening or interacting with the women.

“Senate Bill 357, which for all intents and purposes made prostitution legal because what it said is that officers can no longer contact people based on the idea of loitering for the purpose of prostitution. So, it basically tells the police your hands are off,” Morrison said.

He noted that some of the girls on the street appear underaged, though the amount of makeup the sex workers wear makes it difficult to gauge an age, and the city has previously seen girls as young as 12 working on the streets.

“A lot of the times [police] found out that these were juveniles … or that they were basically being sex trafficked, and they could get them out of that. Now, they basically have no legal opportunity to even talk to them,” Morrison said.

With prostitution blatantly on the streets, other crimes have also followed, including shootings and assaults. Morrison said that just weeks ago an eight-month pregnant prostitute was kidnapped, beaten and raped.

“Those [crime incidents] go on our crime stats. We’ve had shootings, everything else involving the prostitutes and the pimps. So, those crime stats go on us. These people don’t live here in National City and people here don’t want them, but we’re getting the crime stats,” he said.

Morrison said he is working with the local district attorney and the police department to craft avenues on how to navigate the state laws while cleaning up the streets. The police department has carried out “john stings” in the past, but such operations require a team of roughly 30 officers, which would translate to half of the city’s police force, and weeks of planning, Morrison said.

Click here to read the full article in FoxNews 11

San Francisco Police Launch ‘Blitz’ Crackdown on Retail Crime

San Francisco police on Friday announced a new campaign to crack down on retail theft, the latest high-profile law enforcement action undertaken in a city still struggling to shake its negative reputation when it comes to crime.

The initiative — backed by a $15.3-million state grant to combat organized retail crime — entails deploying “blitz enforcement operations” that will involve teams of officers patrolling popular city shopping areas.

“Our city will not tolerate criminals ransacking our businesses,” Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement. “Not only are these crimes devastating to our business community and local economy, too often we’ve seen these crimes escalate into violence.”

Crime, including shoplifting, has long been a hot-button issue in San Francisco — with some saying theft and other illegal activity are the reason retailers including NordstromWhole Foods and Target have opted to close locations in the city.

The city made national news in April when a security guard at a local Walgreens shot and killed an unarmed man he suspected of shoplifting.

As of the start of this month, overall crime was down in San Francisco compared to 2022 — with larceny thefts down nearly 8%, according to Police Department data. In a statement, the department noted that arrests are also increasing.

Robberies, however, were up 15% from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1 of this year, compared to the same period in 2022.

Though officially announced Friday, authorities are already touting the results of previous “blitz” enforcement actions.

“The operations are already showing promising results, with officers making dozens of arrests recently and recovering thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise at San Francisco’s most victimized retailers,” the Police Department said in a statement Friday.

An operation Tuesday netted nine arrests and the recovery of stolen property at the San Francisco Centre, which has been vacated by Nordstrom, the department said.

“We will protect our businesses from being targeted by retail theft operations,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “Retail theft impacts our businesses, workers, and residents, and it must be stopped.”

Officers also recovered around $100,000 in stolen merchandise on Sept. 22 and arrested three “prolific Bay Area thieves,” the department said.

“The blitz operations coupled with vigorous prosecution from my office will send a message that these crimes are taken seriously, and San Francisco is not the place to commit these kinds of crimes,” Dist. Atty. Brooke Jenkins said in a statement.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Times

Dozen Cities Sue to Stop No Cash Bail in LA County

LOS ANGELES – A dozen Southland cities filed an 11th-hour court action Friday in hopes of halting the implementation of a zero-bail system in Los Angeles County that will eliminate cash bail for most people arrested of non-violent or non-serious crimes, allowing them to be released with a citation to appear in court at a later date.

The zero-bail system is scheduled to take effect Sunday. But in court papers submitted to Los Angeles Superior Court Friday, 12 cities contend that the switch to zero-bail represents a threat to public safety.

“There is and has been grave public concern regarding public safety in light of reduced enforcement and criminal consequences for various categories of `low-level’ offenses that, despite the nomenclature, have profound and significant impacts on the day-to-day life of whole communities of plaintiff cities and others within the county,” the municipalities argue in court papers.

With the zero-bail system taking effect Sunday, it was unclear when or if the cities’ request for an injunction blocking the move might take place. The zero-bail schedule was announced by the Los Angeles Superior Court in July, with an effective date of Oct. 1. It was unclear why the cities waited until the last minute to file a legal challenge.

“It is our duty to this community to ensure the safety of those live here, work here, and visit,” Glendora Mayor Gary Boyer said in a statement Friday. “The zero-bail schedule fails to support local leaders in their pledge to protect their residents, and that is unacceptable.”

Superior Court officials could not be reached for comment after hours Friday on the challenge.

The zero-bail system, officially dubbed by the Los Angeles Superior Court as Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols, or PARP, largely eliminates the existing cash bail system for all but the most serious of crimes. Most people arrested on suspicion on non-violent or non-serious offenses will be either cited and released in the field or booked and released at a police or sheriff’s station with orders to appear in court on a specific date for arraignment once they are actually charged with a crime.

Arrestees who are believed to present a heightened threat to the public or be a flight risk will be referred to a magistrate judge, who will review the case and determine if the person should be held in custody pending arraignment or released under non-financial restrictions such as electronic monitoring.

Once a person is charged and appears in court for arraignment, a judge could change or revoke the defendant’s release conditions.

People arrested in connection with serious crimes such as murder would not be eligible for zero-bail release.

The new system is borne from long-held criticism that cash bail favored the rich, meaning well-heeled people arrested for even the most serious of crimes could pay their way out of jail, while low-income people languished behind bars for far lesser offenses. The new system is based not on cash, but on the risk an offender presents to public safety or the possibility the person might fail to appear in court.

During a hearing before the county Board of Supervisors earlier this week, court officials insisted that the new system does not equate to a lack of accountability for criminal offenders, noting that it applies only to pre-trial detention decisions. People who violate release conditions or commit a new offense while on release will be subject to arrest.

County Supervisor Holly Mitchell said the zero-bail system does not mean criminals are escaping punishment for their offenses.

“It’s really dangerous for us to conflate bail with accountability,” Mitchell said, adding later: “Bail means I have the resources to pay my way out of jail.”

Supporters of the program have lashed out at critics who contend it will lead to heightened crime and reduced public safety.

A report prepared by the county last year analyzing the impacts of a zero-bail system that was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic concluded that “rates of failure to appear in court and of rearrest or new offenses remained either below or similar to their historical average.”

The Judicial Council of California also released a recent report finding that a risk-based zero-bail system actually led to increased public safety, with a 5.8% drop in people being rearrested for misdemeanors and a 2.4% decrease in people being rearrested for felonies.

Click here to read the full article in FoxNews 11

Will CA Legislature Pass SB 14 to Make Sex Trafficking a Felony Once Again?

Sen. Grove’s bill will make ‘non-serious’ sex trafficking children a felony and a strike

A bill to make sex trafficking a felony once again in California was blocked in the Assembly Public Safety Committee by Democrats in July, after passing unanimously in the Senate. Eventually and two days later, the committee was pressured by the public and lawmakers to reconsider their vote, and passed SB 14.

What should have been an easy vote for the safety and security of children should not have taken public outrage for passage. When and how did California’s Democrat lawmakers become so indifferent and callous to the people?

As Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) said in July in an op ed, “the grim reality is that California is one of the largest sites of human trafficking in the United States.”

As the Globe reported in July, Currently human trafficking is defined as a “non-serious” crime which means the act of human trafficking cannot be considered a strike under California’s Three Strikes law.

While most people do not encounter the sex trafficking industry, the horrific stories of survivors are out there for anyone willing to listen. “Trafficking victims must meet daily sex or labor quotas before they’re permitted to sleep, eat or rest. In many instances, traffickers will brand their victims with facial or body tattoos to signify their ownership over the victim and the victim’s status as mere property,” Grove said.

The California Attorney General explains the magnitude of sex trafficking:

Human trafficking is among the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprises and is estimated to be a $150 billion-a-year global industry. It is a form of modern day slavery that profits from the exploitation of our most vulnerable populations. One common misperception is that human trafficking requires movement across borders. In reality, it involves controlling a person or group through force, fraud, or coercion to exploit the victims for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or both. This can occur entirely within a single country or it can cross borders.

The International Labor Organization estimates that there are more than 24.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide at any time. This includes 16 million victims of labor exploitation, 4.8 million victims of sexual exploitation, and 4.1 million victims of state imposed forced labor. The victims of human trafficking are often young girls and women. Young girls and women are 57.6% of forced labor victims and 99.4% of sex trafficking victims.

In the past, the U.S. Department of State has estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 victims are trafficked into the United States each year.

Six proposed bills in 2018-19 would have corrected unclear language and serious flaws in Proposition 57, passed in 2016 by voters, which reclassified many serious heinous crimes as “non-serious.” The initiative specified early parole for persons who committed non-violent offenses. However, the initiative never specified what is considered a non-violent felony.

But all 6 bills were killed by Democrats. Ironically, most of the bills were killed in Assembly or Senate Public Safety committees, just as SB 14 was.

Human trafficking involving a minor, assault with a deadly weapon, solicitation of murder, rape under various specified circumstances, grand theft of a firearm, elder and dependent adult abuse, were considered “non-violent” crimes under Prop. 57.

Senate Bill 14 by Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) was voted down in the Assembly Public Safety Committee with 6 Democrats abstaining and 2 Republicans voting “aye”… that means Democrats wouldn’t even commit to a “no” vote lest it look bad during reelection time.

SB 14 will included sex trafficking of minors in the lists of crimes that are defined as serious under California law, making the crime a strike under the Three Strikes law, and would help strengthen protections for the millions of victims of sex trafficking.

As of today, Senator Grove says she has 64 co-authors which is more than half of the California State Legislature, including 46 Assembly members and 9 members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee who have signed on as co-authors. She has done a monumental job winning supporters and co-authors of SB 14,, and it’s taken a lot of heavy lifting.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

More Than A Month’s Worth: That’s the Size of LA DA Gascon’s Case Backlog

‘Crime is up and the current filings are not reflecting the reality’

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón has been criticized – rightly – for any number of justice system reasons: soft on crime, does not add gun enhancements to charges, does not support victim’s families, does not oppose the parole of violent offenders, does use no cash bail which often results in a nearly instantaneous re-offense by the criminal, etc.

But it also appears he’s just really bad at even the most basic part of the job – filing criminal cases.

The office has a case backlog slightly larger than a whole month’s worth of offenses.  The office is sent about 11,000 cases a month – it’s reportedly behind by about 13,000.

In his “mid-term report,” Gascon said the office’s felony filing rate is in fact about the same as previous district attorneys.

But that means the backlog could also represent an increase in crime.  

“If felony filings are the same as before, and there is a huge batch of unfiled cases, that means crime is up and the current filings are not reflecting the reality,” said Marc Debbaudt, retired veteran prosecutor and former president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys.

The issue of staff incompetence should cut across the political spectrum, said longtime deputy district attorney Eric Siddall.  

“He’s a disaster, no matter the politics,” said Siddall.  “This had not happened with previous district attorneys – he just doesn’t know how to administer.”

DA’s office spokesperson Venusse Navid defended the operations, saying a new computerized and centralized filing system has helped and that office leadership went through every office to conduct a physical hand count, we “looked on shelves, on desks, in drawers, in boxes” to find every case.

“Up until 2021, the office mainly operated with hard-copy, paper file submissions,” Navid said.  “Two years ago, we dramatically expanded the use of the award-winning electronic charge evaluation system known as ‘eCER.’While the workload is high, we prioritize custody cases. We are proud to say that no case submitted for custody filing has been left unreviewed and unfiled by our office since December 2020.”

Siddall said Navid crowing about “custody filing” is irrelevant as those are cases involving people already in jail and – per the constitution –  must be filed within 48 hours.

But the system change – along with the office being unable to replace the hundreds of experienced deputy district attorneys who could not abide Gascon’s ludicrous, and often illegal, prosecution-related orders and directives have exacerbated the problem.

Debbaudt said he understand that the new system has ballooned the time it takes a deputy district attorney to actually file a case. “You used to be able to do 40 or 50 a day,” Debbaudt said.  “Now’s it about five.”

The new centralized system does have one benefit for Gascon – it allows him to monitor and control what gets filed, Debbaudt added.

The mid term report also noted that charges for misdemeanor offenses have dropped about 40 percent while charges for misdemeanor “addiction related offenses” have essentially dropped to zero per office policy, a policy many say has directly led to the degradation of the city.

Those offenses not charged anymore include drug possession, drug use, public intoxication, and possession of paraphernalia, etc.

The report states: 

“Do no harm” is also an overriding principle in our office, and we have decided to shift resources away from misdemeanors where prosecution serves no public safety benefit. We have, therefore, dramatically decreased our filing rate for cases associated with addiction, while focusing on those misdemeanors where violence, and especially domestic violence, occurs.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Retail Owners Frustrated With Gov. Newsom, Mayor Bass Responses to Multiplying Robberies

‘Bass keeps finding new ways to disappoint us – She’s not even doing the bare minimum’

Retail store owners in Los Angeles continued to remain frustrated at the recent string of smash and grab robberies, with many charging that state and local officials have not done enough to help deter the growing number of robberies. The Globe spoke with several retail owners in the LA area about what the situation currently is like for them.

“If a large number of people burst in here all at once, there is nothing we can really do,” said Nasser Odeh, a luxury store owner in Los Angeles, to the Globe. “Say 12 come in and start smashing the cases. If I call the police, they won’t respond in time, and even if some just happen to swing by, the most we can hope for is one or two arrests. If I pull down the shutters, then I’m stuck with 12 angry robbers who may or may not be armed. If I bring out bear spray or another weapon, they’ll retaliate. If I fight back, they’ll retaliate. The best case for me is that one or two of them are caught, but then because of the laws we have, who knows if they’ll even be sentenced.”

“This is where a lot of retailers are, especially ones that carry expensive clothes or jewelry or something else expensive that is easy to carry out and flip. We don’t know who to turn to in these cases. The best we can do is improve security as best as we can to deter robbers.”

A clothing boutique co-owner, Sarah Watt, added, “This is incredibly frustrating, and scary. If you look at those smash and grab videos, they all come in wearing black and face coverings, and just rip what they can. It’s brutal and effective. And there is only so much we can do. We can have armed security guards and cameras and everything, but they’ll still come. What we want is more police, stronger sentences, and for our security guards to be given the green light for more hands on action in case things take a turn. But this city just is not doing that. [LA Mayor Karen] Bass really doesn’t give a damn about small business owners.”

The uptick in ‘flash mob’ robberies did spur some action this week from both Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Karen Bass. Gov. Newsom announced on Thursday that he would be tripling its California Highway Patrol (CHP)resources in Los Angeles to help crack down on the issue, while Mayor Bass created a new task force to help counter the robberies. According to the Mayor’s office, the new task force will investigate, apprehend and prosecute all criminals involved in recent retail thefts.

“We are not treating it as organized crime in the traditional sense, in terms of, like, the Mafia,” said the Mayor on Friday. “But what is clear is that this is organized. You can’t go in and have a group of people, 20 and 30 people, who all get out of their cars at the same time, all go in to the stores. There might be connections between the groups. This is what the task force will establish.”

“No Angeleno should feel like it’s not safe to go shopping in Los Angeles. No entrepreneur should feel like it’s not safe to open a business.”

Disappointment with the response by Newsom, Bass

However, the actions of Newsom and Bass have rung hollow for many. Senate Republicans on Thursday pointed out the flaws in Newsom’s plan, including that, because of many current vacancies in the CHP, the increased presence would put a strain on the Highway Patrol as a consequence of the state not giving any additional resources (funding) to them. Others said that the state’s lax laws on reducing penalties to retail criminals, few to no prison terms for retail robberies, and early releases for those with sentences severely undercut what the Governor was attempting to do. In addition, it was also mentioned that the lack of arrests from similar flash mob robberies in the Bay Area two years ago showed how the Governor’s response would likely not accomplish much.

“Welcome to ‘CRIMEafornia,’” said Senator Brian Jones (R-San Diego) in a statement on Thursday. “The crisis we are experiencing is unfortunately a result of decades-long policies implemented by Democrat lawmakers that prioritize coddling criminals over protecting communities. While it’s welcome news that the state is investing more resources to combat skyrocketing thefts, it shouldn’t be happening in the first place. The governor is treating the symptoms, not the causes, including little-to-no penalties, early release, lenient or non-existent prison terms, and weak leadership from most of California’s Democrat politicians over the last two decades.”

More locally in LA, Bass’ task force announcement failed to impress retail owners.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Crime is So Bad Near S.F. Federal Building Employees are Told to Work From Home, Officials Said

Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advised hundreds of employees in San Francisco to work remotely for the foreseeable future due to public safety concerns outside the Nancy Pelosi Federal Building on Seventh Street. 

The imposing, 18-story tower on the corner of Seventh and Mission streets houses various federal agencies, including HHS, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the office of Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi. The area is also home to one of the city’s most brazen open-air drug markets, where dozens of dealers and users congregate on a daily basis. 

HHS Assistant Secretary for Administration Cheryl R. Campbell issued the stay-home recommendation in an Aug. 4 memo to regional leaders.

“In light of the conditions at the (Federal Building) we recommend employees … maximize the use of telework for the foreseeable future,” Campbell wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Chronicle. 

“This recommendation should be extended to all Region IX employees, including those not currently utilizing telework flexibilities,” Campbell wrote, referring to the federal government zone that includes California and other Western states.

The memo came on the same day that, according to Axios, President Biden’s White House chief of staff called for more federal employees to return to their offices after years of remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It was not immediately clear whether other tenants in the building had issued similar directives. Officials with Pelosi’s office and the Department of Labor said they have been working closely with local and federal law enforcement to ensure safety for their staffers, but they have not advised employees to work from home. 

The building has long been a locus of some of the city’s most intractable problems. 

Dozens of dealers routinely plant themselves on, next to or across the street from the property, operating in shifts as users smoke, snort or shoot up their recent purchases. The property’s concrete benches are an especially popular site for users to get high, socialize or pass out. 

While Pelosi’s five-person staff was not advised to work remotely, she raised concerns about the building’s tenant safety last week in a meeting with the U.S. attorney for the northern district of California, according to officials with her office. 

“The safety of workers in our federal buildings has always been a priority for Speaker Emerita Pelosi, whether in the building or on their commutes,” Pelosi spokesperson Aaron Bennett said in a statement. 

“Federal, state and local law enforcement — in coordination with public health officials and stakeholders — are working hard to address the acute crises of fentanyl trafficking and related violence in certain areas of the city.”

Pelosi recently secured more federal law enforcement assistance in cracking down on the city’s fentanyl crisis in the Tenderloin and SoMa areas. San Francisco is one of the cities included in a federal program called Operation Overdrive, which targets drug traffickers in areas with the highest levels of drug-related violence and overdoses. 

The Speaker Nancy Pelosi Federal Building is maintained by the federal General Services Administration, and policing is handled by Federal Protective Services. 

Richard Stebbins, a public affairs officer for GSA, said the agency coordinates with San Francisco police to enhance safety outside of the building, which includes routine patrols and camera systems around the perimeter of the building. 

“The building is a safe and secure space for federal employees and the visiting public,” Stebbins said in an email to the Chronicle. “There are a number of security controls GSA employs to make sure the building is safe including Federal Protective Services officers at the building and secure checkpoints.”

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Federal Protective Service, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

But a tenant of the building familiar with recent decisions said the agency and GSA have recently implemented a number of new security measures to address safety concerns. This included pulling FPS personnel from other nearby properties for additional security, a pending vote on funds for an additional “roving” guard dedicated to the property, and creating a “BART Buddies” program that has escorts on call from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to walk employees to and from BART. 

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

How 600-plus California Inmates Got More Than 11,000 Years Cut Off Their Prison Sentences

Neko Wilson wasn’t present when Gary and Sandra DeBartolo were brutally killed in their Central Valley home in 2009. Still, Fresno County prosecutors alleged he was culpable for their murders because he had helped plan the botched robbery.

At the time, California law allowed for people to be charged with first-degree murder if they were involved in a felony that led to a killing, even if they hadn’t intended for anyone to be hurt and didn’t commit the violence themselves. For years, the felony murder law was used to lock up entire groups of offenders for the violent acts of one or two among them — often for decades, sometimes for life.

Wilson, who was 27 when he and five others were arrested in the DeBartolo murders, faced a similar fate.

“That was the hardest pill to swallow,” Wilson said. “A life sentence for something I didn’t do.”

Wilson, however, walked out of prison in October 2018 — the first of hundreds of state prisoners who have benefited from a pair of criminal justice reform measures that revised the way California punishes unwitting accomplices to killings.

According to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Office of the State Public Defender, at least 602 people in California detention facilities had their prison sentences reduced between 2019 and 2022 as a result of the two laws. That erased an estimated 11,353 years from their combined terms and saved taxpayers between $94 million and $1.2 billion in prison costs.

“This is really tangible — not only real impact on the individuals who were incarcerated under this sentence, but also their families and the rest of California,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who sponsored Senate Bill 1437 in the Legislature and worked to ensure inmates were aware of the change after it passed.

SB 1437, signed into law in 2018, and Senate Bill 775, signed into law in 2021, largely restricted the filing of felony murder and other manslaughter and attempted murder charges to people who actually commit or intend to commit a killing, or who are major participants in a related felony and acted with “reckless indifference to human life.”

Certain cases, including those involving the murder of a law enforcement officer, were exempted.

The bills applied retroactively and allowed people behind bars on convictions and plea deals reached under the old rules to be resentenced — usually for lesser crimes — under the new rules.

The bills set off substantial controversy. Advocates said they would save on prison costs, reduce the size of the state’s prison population and restore fairness to California law. Opponents said the laws would remove a critical deterrent to murder, overturn legitimate jury decisions, force prosecutors to relitigate long settled cases and release dangerous prisoners back into the public.

Both sides gave rough estimates for how many people might be released as a result of the changes and over how long of a period. The true numbers would depend on a host of factors, including individual district attorneys’ willingness to go along with inmates’ requests for resentencing or fight them in court.

Some prosecutors did fight, in part by arguing that the laws were unconstitutional. The state’s highest courts rejected that idea, allowing the laws to stand.

A major criticism of the state’s former felony murder law was that it was disproportionately applied to defendants of color. The state analysis, based on data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, found that 41% of the resentenced defendants were Black, and 39% were Latino — or, as the state broke them out, 20% Mexican and 19% Hispanic. About 12% were white.

The analysis found that 250 of the defendants, or 41.5%, were in Los Angeles County. Another 69, or 11.5%, were in Alameda County and 52, or 8.6%, were in Orange County.

There were 26 in San Diego County, 25 each in Sacramento and San Bernardino counties, 22 in Santa Clara County, 21 in Riverside County and 20 in San Francisco County. The rest were scattered across the state.

The analysis is almost certainly an undercount of people who were resentenced. Some prosecutors have simply cut deals to release detainees rather than go through the official process of resentencing and releasing them under the two laws, legal observers said.

Recidivism among those released was not part of the state’s analysis. However, the Office of the State Public Defender noted that individuals released after long prison terms, like many of those freed under the two laws, tend to reoffend “at a much lower rate than other populations.”

Robert Brown, an assistant district attorney in San Bernardino County, worked with other prosecutors in the state to fight the laws before and after they took effect, and believes they have since let dangerous offenders off the hook.

The laws make it relatively easy for people convicted of felony murder to petition for resentencing, without requiring them to prove they are eligible for such relief. Instead, the legal burden is on prosecutors to prove they are not eligible, Brown said.

That has meant a mountain of new casework for prosecutors — to prove resentencing isn’t deserved because a person had intent to kill or was a reckless, major participant in an underlying felony, Brown said. That work is often complicated or impossible in old cases where key evidence is gone or witnesses have died, or in cases where plea deals were struck and there are no trial transcripts, he said.

“It certainly left us with a less-than-ideal tool belt,” he said.

The new laws also leave families of murder victims “blindsided when they are suddenly told that this murder case from 30 years ago is suddenly coming back” and the people locked up for their loved ones’ murders may go free, Brown said.

“The victims really seem to be left out of consideration here,” he said.

Several inmates who have benefited from the law said they are doing well — and grateful to those who helped make it happen.

Patricia Ann Brown — known as Patty Ann Lamoureux when her well-known case was litigated — was arrested in Temecula in 2011 and charged with felony murder in the killing of Bradley Capen.

She was living at the time with her then-boyfriend, Ian Inserra. A friend named Kyle Miller was also staying at their home. Prosecutors allege that one night, Miller and Inserra went to Miller’s family home to rob Capen, who was Miller’s uncle, and that Miller fatally shot Capen.

Although Brown was not there, prosecutors charged her with murder along with the two men, alleging she had helped plan the robbery and gotten rid of the gun afterward. In 2013, a jury convicted her of felony murder and conspiracy to commit robbery, and sentenced her to life without the possibility of parole.

Capen’s family could not be reached for comment.

Brown says she was not part of planning the attack, and had only gotten rid of the gun because Inserra and Miller had hidden it in a tree outside their home, and she was worried Inserra’s young son would find it. When she heard the verdict in her case — guilty of murder — she said she went into shock.

“My ears were ringing and it was like slow motion, and my heart was beating so hard, and I could hardly breathe,” she said.

She eventually resigned herself to spending the rest of her life behind bars, she said. But one day someone slid a piece of paper under her cell door. On it was the language of SB 1437.

“I burst into tears, because I knew at that point that I was going to get to go home,” she said.

Not that it was easy. Prosecutors fought her release, and Brown’s case went to the California Supreme Court — which declined to take it. That left in place a lower appellate court decision that upheld the new law’s constitutionality and found she was eligible for resentencing, in part because the state had failed to establish that she had any intent for someone to be killed.

Brown’s victory helped clear the way for others convicted of felony murder to also go home.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Bandits Hit Gucci Store in Century City

The brazen daytime heist by nine men is the latest targeting the luxury brand.

The Gucci store at a mall in Century City was robbed Monday by a large group of thieves, in a grab-and-dash heist that was caught on video, according to the Los Angeles Police Department and video of the incident.

A group of at least nine men could be seen sprinting out of the store around 3:10 p.m. Monday in video posted to Twitter. The LAPD confirmed that there was a robbery at a store at Westfield Century City mall. It was not immediately clear if the men were armed or if anyone was injured.

The video shows at least nine men wearing hoodies sprinting out of the entrance to the Gucci store with merchandise overflowing in their arms.

Bystanders looked on and took video, while a lone security guard walked helplessly behind the men as they sprinted away, the video shows. A suited man who appeared to work for Gucci could be heard on the phone calling the police.

It was not immediately clear how much was stolen or if any arrests had been made.

The LAPD could not provide any information on the amount of merchandise stolen, and declined to name which store at the mall was robbed. A spokeswoman for the department said she also did not know how many men were in the group of robbers.

The thieves drove off in a white SUV and a red Kia, according to the LAPD.

The robbery came just weeks after a Gucci store in San Francisco was robbed by a group of men who made off with about $48,000 in stolen goods.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times