Los Angeles officials are now rethinking the wisdom of its COVID-era “no bail” policy.
In a move that indicates that COVID may be dropping in political priorities, San Jose officials are diverting funds provided for pandemic response in an effort to counter this criminal activity.
The San Jose, Calif., city council has approved spending a portion of COVID-19 pandemic funds in an effort to combat smash-and-grab robberies in the Bay Area, according to CBS affiliate KPIX.
The city council unanimously voted to allocate $250,000 of pandemic funds toward license plate readers (LPRs).
The $250,000 came from the $18.3 million the city received from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, according to KPIX.
Mayor Sam Liccardo cited incidents across the state, including downtown San Jose, as the reason for the move.
In a memo, Liccardo wrote the LPRs would “enable SJPD to better deter and make arrests in armed ‘smash-mob’ burglaries and robberies, auto thefts, and drive-by shootings.” The memo stated that data collected from the LPRs would not be shared with federal immigration authorities.
“Where culprits are attempting to evade the license plate readers, all the better because that’s a very clear warning, when we see folks covering their license plates, that those are drivers that should be pulled over,” said Liccardo.
According to San Jose Police Asst. Chief Paul Joseph, the exact model of the LPR system has not yet been decided. It would likely be a stationary unit that can be moved to various crime hotspots around the city.
“We absolutely are going to take into account crime all throughout the city, and not just in any one particular spot,” said Joseph.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Department says it has made more than a dozen arrests after a series of flash mob robberies across the city in recent weeks where nearly $340,000 worth of merchandise was stolen.
However, all are now out of custody due to COVID-era policy priorities.
Fourteen people were arrested in connection with 11 brazen robberies between Nov. 18 and 28, and all are out of custody, police Chief Michel Moore said. Most bailed out or met no-bail criteria, and one is a juvenile, he said.
Moore added that Los Angeles, and California, saw a “rash” of the smash-and-grab crimes surrounding the Thanksgiving and Black Friday holidays. The crimes were all similar in nature, characterized by multiple suspects working together, destruction of property, assault on store employees, and caravans of vehicles parking close to high-end retail stores.
Only now are city officials rethinking the “no bail” policy.
At a joint news conference, both Moore and Mayor Eric Garcetti called for an end to a no-bail policy for some defendants aimed at reducing overcrowding at Los Angeles County jails during the coronavirus pandemic.
Garcetti said with the pandemic easing, it’s time to make room again in lockups for criminals who commit violent acts and put store employees in danger.
“We need the help of our criminal justice system, of our judges, of our jailers,” Garcetti said.
“We have opened up a lot of the city because we’re in a better place with COVID. We should be able to also open up our jails, and we should be able to have judges that put people behind those bars.”
A statewide policy of imposing $0 bail for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies ended last year, but it was kept in place within the LA County Superior Court system.
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