Drugs & Crime

Unraveling the Public Safety Crisis

Public safety is a pressing issue, not just in California but across the nation. In fact, crime in California is steadily rising — much of it due to the correlation between violent cartels and the drug trade. In 2021, 397 people were murdered in Los Angeles, a number that is up significantly from the previous decade. 

Understanding the complex interplay of rising crime rates, drug abuse, and evolving legislation is essential in addressing this crisis. To make a difference, it’s time to consider the impacts crime and drugs have on our communities and where our public policies are failing.

Drug Abuse and Homelessness

A man sitting on a bench holding drugs

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley draws a direct line between drug abuse and homelessness, citing the reclassification of possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors as a significant contributor to ongoing drug problems. The fact is that between one-half and three-fourths of California’s homeless population experiences significant drug or alcohol abuse issues. Because of these struggles, they often wind up in the criminal justice system. But since California no longer emphasizes prosecuting drug crimes, they are quickly back on the streets committing crimes to sustain their habit again. It’s a never-ending cycle.   

“People who abuse these substances are back out abusing the system,” he states. This reclassification, he argues, indirectly supports drug cartels by allowing users to continue funding these organizations, exacerbating homelessness and addiction in Los Angeles County. It also increases crime as these cartels attempt to gain a foothold and territory in the region. 

Failures in Addressing Mental Health

Cooley also highlights the societal and governmental failures in addressing mental health issues. The neglect of the mentally ill and drug-addicted population has profound implications for public safety. In fact, research shows that untreated mental illness leaves people more prone to committing violence if they don’t receive adequate care and treatment. 

“That is a great failure of society that we’re not even providing a mechanism for them to deal with their addiction and their problem…Government has absolutely failed to deal with the mentally ill,” he comments, pointing to a critical gap in our social safety net.

Bail System and Public Safety

Recent court decisions have weakened public safety in California. Making bail unconstitutional without considering the defendant’s ability to pay has resulted in more criminals being released quickly.

Cooley’s criticism extends to the broader implications of these court decisions on community safety. He argues that such rulings undermine the principle of accountability in the justice system, allowing individuals who may pose a risk to public safety back into communities without adequate assessment or supervision. 

This hasty release not only compromises the safety of the public but also diminishes the potential for rehabilitative measures that might be more effectively implemented within the criminal justice system. A more balanced approach, which carefully weighs the rights of the accused against the safety of the community, is crucial for maintaining public trust and upholding the integrity of the legal system.

FBI Crime Statistics and Public Perception

There is skepticism regarding how FBI crime statistics are calculated. Are they truly reliable? Cooley suggests that they don’t consider anecdotal experience, noting that many crimes go unreported due to a lack of faith in the justice system, particularly after Prop 47. “Other crimes could be rampant but are not reflected in the crime rate…Because they don’t get reported,” he says.

A suitcase full of drugs next to a man with handcuffs on.

Drug Trends and National Security

In 2022, over 100,00 people died of fentanyl overdoses. This deadly drug is trafficked by Chinese and Mexican cartels, creating geopolitical ramifications of the drug trade. The proliferation of drugs like fentanyl not only fuels a public health crisis but also poses a significant threat to national security. 

The involvement of foreign cartels in the supply chain of these potent substances reveals a complex web of international relations and economic dependencies that transcend national borders. This international aspect of the drug trade challenges traditional law enforcement strategies and calls for a more coordinated and global approach to tackling this menace, both from a public health and a security standpoint. 

The fact that these substances can easily cross borders makes it imperative for countries to collaborate more closely in monitoring and controlling the flow of these drugs.

The Current Legal and Political Landscape is Failing California

Unfortunately, the California State Legislature is not taking the influences of drugs and crime seriously. Many state and local prosecutors and political leaders are set on enacting policies that harm public safety. 

“I have very little faith in the California State Legislature as currently comprised to do anything positive on the public safety front,” Cooley states. “…They continue to pass laws that make things more complicated for the law enforcers, the prosecutors, and easier for the criminal element.”

Public Safety: A Collective Responsibility

Tackling the intertwined issues of crime and drug abuse requires collaboration from all stakeholders, including law enforcement, policymakers, and community organizations. It demands a deep understanding of the issues, reevaluation of policies, and commitment to collective action. By fostering partnerships and developing evidence-based strategies, we can create a safer environment where communities are protected and rehabilitation is prioritized.

The challenges of crime and drug abuse are daunting, but understanding these issues is the first step toward meaningful solutions. We can create a safer and more just society by addressing the root causes, reassessing our policies, and working together.

Learn More by Listening to Our Podcast

The New Majority Podcast recently hosted an episode with Steve Cooley on the topics of crime and drug abuse. Gain deeper insights into these pressing issues by listening to the episode here.

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