As of April, shootings in Los Angeles are up by 69% since 2020. Violent crime is up by 7.2% when compared to last year. Robberies are up by 18.5% when compared to last year. Car thefts are up by 40% when compared to 2020, according to the Los Angeles Times.
This is what Los Angeles is experiencing, and there's a growing fear that if progressive Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon isn't recalled, the recent crime wave will only continue to increase.
As district attorney, Gascon has implemented a progressive wish-list of policies, which many view as adding fuel to an increased rate of crime in Los Angeles.
Included in the massive policy changes implemented when Gascon took office in 2020, a directive was sent to all deputy district attorneys to decline pressing charges or outright dismiss charges before arraignment for several misdemeanors, such as trespassing, criminal threats, drug possession, resisting arrest, and more. There are exceptions, and under certain circumstances, charges can be prosecuted.
Among the changes Gascon implemented is a diversion program for juvenile criminals charged with felony burglary, assaults without firearms or extensive injuries, vehicle theft, robbery, grand theft person, sexual battery, and arson. The program, titled "Restorative Enhanced Diversion For Youth Pathway," moves juveniles from incarceration into rehabilitation. Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami calls the program a "slap on the wrist," adding that "Diversion means that we're not charging anybody."
Two recent high-profile cases handled by Gascon's office have sparked national outrage, and are making some supporters of the progressive district attorney re-consider their decision in a potential recall election.
One of those cases involves a 17-year-old who recently pleaded guilty to driving a car into a woman walking her child in a stroller in Venice, California while on probation and was sentenced to five to seven months in a juvenile probation camp. According to prosecutors, the camp is "less than a military school and a little bit tougher than a summer camp."
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office declined to charge the teenager with assault with a deadly weapon or attempted murder, and sources tell Fox News that the decision was made in accordance with Gascon's policies.
In another incident, comedian Dave Chappelle was allegedly attacked by Isaiah Lee, 23, while performing at the Hollywood Bowl on May 3. Lee was only charged with four misdemeanor counts but was later charged with attempted murder in an unrelated case dating back to December.
Hatami told Fox News Digital that he believes these incidents are contributing to the number of people making the decision to ditch Gascon.
"I can tell you there's quite a lot of people who have told me that they believe for a Gascon, they're sorry. They looked at the ballot, they saw that he was a police officer for 30 years. They saw that he was a district attorney for eight years. And they thought maybe he wouldn't be bad and he could help Los Angeles. And they feel so ashamed now, because I think he tricked a lot of people," Hatami said.
Hatami is also concerned that Gascon's style of "progressive" prosecuting will expand elsewhere in the United States beyond Los Angeles, stating that it has already affected areas such as New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and more.
"We have a great country where people don't realize is that this progressive prosecutor movement has affected a lot of different areas of the United States," Hatami said. "And so what happens is that, you know, it really can deteriorate our great country by allowing people to terrorize or hurt innocent people."
The so-called "progressive" prosecutor movement is no longer confined to large American cities and is expanding to smaller cities and towns in the United States.
"They feel so ashamed now, because I think he tricked a lot of people."
In Cumberland County, Maine, where just under 300,000 people reside, a political action committee backed by billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, spent over $172,000 in promoting the campaign of Jackie Sartoris, who is running for district attorney, according to WMTW. Cumberland County includes Portland, Maine.
Sartoris' campaign website states that, if elected, she would "enhance the use of restorative justice" and "begin to shift young adult consequences towards greater non charging and alternatives that lead to dismissals."
She also advocates for the closing of Long Creek Youth Development Center, which is a juvenile detention center, and states that she will push for the "creation of more appropriately scaled and community-focused alternative facilities."
On Los Angeles' doorstep, Pete Hardin, who has been endorsed by a local Democratic Party, is running for Orange County District Attorney.
Hardin's website states that he will end the practice of prosecuting children as adults, and also "advocate for diversion programs and specialized programs" for young adults, adding that he will "seek alternatives to incarceration for teenagers where possible and appropriate."
When asked if he would be in favor of a policy similar to Gascon's policy of not prosecuting certain misdemeanors, Hardin told Fox News Digital that his opponent hasn't focused on violent crime enough.
"I will enhance the use of restorative justice, and begin to shift young adult consequences towards greater non charging and alternatives that lead to dismissals."
"I'll work hand-in-hand with law enforcement to combat violent crime by prosecuting offenders and investing in violence reduction programs that are proven to stop crime before it happens," Hardin said.
Hardin's opponent, incumbent Todd Spitzer, frequently tweets "#NoLAinOC," and highlighted a left-wing PAC that supports Hardin.
In Chicago, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, does not prosecute thefts that are under $1,000. In many low-level shoplifting and drug cases, Foxx's office has diverted them to counseling and treatment.
"I guess that’s the big question. If a cop responds to a storeowner who wants a drunk person off the sidewalk, what’s the alternative?" Foxx told the Sun-Times. "And I think as we talk about repeat offenders, we have to evaluate whether our interventions are making situations better or worse."
The progressive prosecutor movement has suffered setbacks recently, including in Oregon, where former prosecutor and public defender Brian Decker lost his bid for Washington County district attorney. Washington County includes a portion of the Portland metropolitan area.
Decker's platform included a proposal to "divert people away from courts and into robust services that save public funds."
In an interview with the Sherwood Gazette, Decker proposed "maximizing" the use of "rehabilitation alternative programs."
"I will focus on the prevention of crime and rehabilitating non-violent offenders away from criminal behavior — not just prosecuting after crimes have already been committed and hoping, despite evidence to the contrary, that the toughest sentences will solve problems. That means maximizing our use of rehabilitation alternative programs where appropriate — getting more people into them, and getting people into them earlier on in the court process," he said.
Decker also wanted to "foster the development of a restorative justice program as an alternative to traditional criminal court where appropriate."
His platform also argued that the current system "relies too much on costly incarceration," stating that "a punishment should fit the crime, regardless of whether the defendant pleads guilty or expects a full trial."
Patricia Wenskunas, founder and CEO of Crime Survivors Inc., a California-based organization focused on helping victims of violent crime and their family members, friends, and loved ones, told Fox News Digital she "can't imagine" why Gascon is offering support to criminals, rather than victims and survivors of crime.
She said that people in Los Angeles are beginning to wake up to the realization that Gascon's policies are making the city unsafe.
"People can't even walk down the street wearing their nice watch, or drive their nice car, or have boxes delivered to their homes. The violence is just reached such a significant level that I think people are like, well, I want to live here because I thought it was a safe community. I want to raise my children here and send them to schools to get educated without fear," Wenskunas said. "So I think that the communities and the families and the parents and the elderly and everybody has just reached their max capacity and said enough is enough."