Home NEWS Local Scene Local Crime As Spectator Sport – Chases, Arrests Almost Commonplace

Local Crime As Spectator Sport – Chases, Arrests Almost Commonplace

Photo: Dan Foscalina

Dan Foscalina was out and about in Walnut Creek Friday night when he looked up to see local police chasing – and catching – two persons fleeing from the law on Broadway Plaza.

He snapped a picture of the moment as officers cuffed the pair and led them away.

And while we had several calls about this incident and briefly considered “Flashing” a news alert about it, it was just one of so many incidents Friday that we opted not to, electing to alert our users to incidents involving “Bigger Fish.”

This led to some discussion here at the NEWS24/680 control center about the current

Photo: Pleasanton PD

state of “petty crime” we have been seeing in our area of late, predicted by local police chiefs as 2014’s Proposition 47 was put to public vote – a move law enforcement said would open the floodgates of petty crime.

The effects have been dramatic, with thefts spiking and taking on almost Keystone Cops proportion, leading to potentially dangerous confrontations between crooks and employees and the occasional involved citizen. 

After posting a story on one such “blitz theft” in Alamo Thursday we received dozens of calls and emails from readers who had witnessed similar occurrences, including this one from reader Larry Candeub:

“Saw something similar at the Home Depot in San Ramon, around 11:30 today (Thursday). Couple walked in, took a bunch of power tools and got into a waiting car. A little surreal, as the employees did not actively engage. Glad they didn’t, good training I guess, as no one was injured…”

As Larry points out the stores have their own policies regarding shoplifters and thieves and, as guns have been pulled and even fired, a “let the police take care of them” attitude seems to be prevailing with bystanders standing by to watch – and often film – the action.

Many have placed the blame for the highly visible flurry of property crime squarely on Proposition 47, the ballot measure that reclassified six nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

Law enforcement officials have maintained that Proposition 47 is behind the recent increase in crime, not only of violent crime but more noticeably auto thefts, burglaries and other nonviolent offenses.

In 2016, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice issued a report that found “no correlation between rates of Proposition 47-related prison releases or jail population decreases and county crime.”

And the Public Policy Institute of California released a study of “California’s historic corrections reforms,” concluding they “did not lead to a broad increase in crime rates” but may have contributed to a rise in auto thefts.

The PPIC report suggests that the perceived uptick in crime may just be an anomaly in an otherwise “long-term decline.”

Dan and Larry and many others aren’t so sure.


  1. PPIC report makes a couple of important points.

    1. There’s been “a reduction in early releases for offenders with more serious charges.” This is a positive outcome, given it’s unlikely taxpayers would approve a new tax to fund the prison system.

    2. “The reinvestment of state correctional savings in behavioral health treatments and other prevention programs—has not yet been realized.” Without this component of Prop 47, in place, you can’t be surprised that people are committing petty crimes to support their drug habits.

  2. I believe petty crime is up (thanks Prop. 47) but with the rise in vehicle burglaries (which are PREVENTABLE) I’m also reading that residential burglaries (not always preventable – unless you leave doors unlocked and windows wide open) are down. Residential burglary wasn’t affected by Prop. 47.

    Also – a lot of these crimes have been happening for years. You just didn’t have the opportunity to read about every crime because there was no internet or local news sites that cover crimes that MSN aren’t interested in.

    I worked retail as a teenager in the 70s, and I saw the crimes we read about on the internet all the time. Back in the day – nobody cared.

  3. I agree with Danielle UP TO A POINT because it is true the internet wasn’t around years ago and not everyone was carrying a camera with them BUT i will also say I have never seen things as brazen and as open as things appears to be now. Broad daylight burglaries and thefts with high speed chases and the bad guys doing crazy things to elude police. We have had several burglaries (car AND home) in our neighborhood and police activity downtown is more common than I’ve ever seen before. IMHO

  4. I happen to believe there are other factors in play – displacement of low-wage workers by wildfire, other disaster, the widening wealth gap, and widespread addiction to opiates and other drugs which drive the need to steal. And despite the numbers put out by local and state officials I think it is a greater problem today than it has been in the past though admittedly crime has always been here

  5. Most people are likely unaware that economic mobility in the US has collapsed over the last forty years or so. Meaning that low paying jobs no longer lead to higher paying jobs for the vast majority of US citizens. Meaning if you are born poor or lower working class in the US, you are now more likely to die that way than to do better than your parents. This is a well documented long term trend in the US. No pathway to a better life means more despair, economic anxiety, more drug use, and inevitably, more petty crime. Locking everyone up is the dumb way to deal in vain with such a problem– as the cost per inmate in CA has skyrocketed over the years to near $80,000 per inmate per year. It’s going to be up to the states to decide what to try and do about this worsening situation– but more prisons are, as we have learned, just another self-fulling prophecy that leads to… more prisons! Compassion and community programs to help young people find their way is vastly less expensive and — given tried and true example that are used all around the world in countries with FAR less crime than the US– maybe we ought to give these kinds of programs more resources and attention. The “lock ’em all up” philosophy will only get more expensive, and in the end, does nothing about the root causes of the problem.

  6. Agree with Henry and Wes. We’ve created a Steal/Get Caught/Get Released/Steal Again cycle I see little hope of ever shaking and I agree that throwing people in the pokey isn’t going to solve the problem. More people, scrabbling for fewer resources — or just things they feel that can’t live without or can sell easily — does not bode well for the state and many parts of the nation already in the grip of a lethal drug crisis. And though I am essentially an optimist I do believe things are going to get worse before they get any better and IF they do get better it will only be because of some drastic shift in policy or because the people finally had enough rose up and forcefully demanded change.

  7. What have I been telling you about prop 47! We are in trouble as a State. I have more hope for the nation though, as it seems to be coming to its senses. But good old California liberals are fighting to the end to push their failed social policies on us, thinking if just more money were added, that they might finally work. But this absolute craziness has become a laughing stock of the Nation, and the quality ( and safety ) of life in California has erroded, and getting worse.

  8. If I had to say crime is up. I agree most if not all of it is driven by drugs but I also think there are criminal gangs behind the shoplifting and robberies.

  9. With all respect to this site which does a good job of covering this trend, they are getting about 60% of what’s actually happening. Our local Safeway seems to get shoplifted every other day and we’re no stranger to violent crime either — which is mind boggling for many who have lived here any length of time.

  10. Pleasant Hill is hopping right now. Not sure what’s going on but it’s time to get my behind home.

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