As a child in Southern New Jersey, I saw San Francisco being such a trend setter that the dreaded rival of my Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, the New York Giants, moved there. No more could I visualize the radio commentators in New York, describing the pitches Sal Maglie threw as being so close to the chins of right-handed hitters that he earned the nickname “the barber.”
As a student I saw the trends from the Haight-Asbury area and Levi Strauss’ blue jeans that they created during the gold rush instead of panning for gold.
After almost needing a chiropractor to stand up after bending over a stream while panning for gold, I admired their choice of trading the pan for sewing machines and scissors. They even rejuvenated the trendsetting by again using scissors to make the horizontal tears in their women’s jeans that has permeated every nook and cranny from coast-to-coast.
I saw the tech companies use of silicon cause the San Francisco area to be given the nickname ‘Silicon Valley.” Later I would wonder if the use of silicon by the two major breast augmentation companies, both located in Santa Barbara, would lead to the nickname “Silicon Silhouette?”
San Francisco is also a trend setter in politics, as it is the home of the speaker of the house, which initiates most legislation and impeachments, Nancy Pelosi (D); former California Attorney General and current U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (D), current U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) and former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D), Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) from nearby Alameda County, Mayor Loudon Breed (D) and District Attorney Chesa Boudin (D) as well as the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court.
The trend considered herein started with a procedure that permits anyone with sufficient financing (big money) and signatures to apply for inclusion as a “proposition.” The application is reviewed, edited and perhaps rewritten by the attorney general, who at times, added so many double negatives that I tried to remember how to diagram sentences.
In 2014, campaigns by celebrities, such as Michael Moore, for Proposition 47 were so successful that voters approved it. That started the trend of reducing the theft of items worth less than $950, from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Then elected prosecutors started seeking no jail time and minimum fines for those arrested, which caused law enforcement to treat these offenses with the equivalent of parking tickets. “No bail,” the nickname for this procedure, was rejected by voters in the 2020 election.
Nevertheless, in March 2021 the California Supreme Court ruled that courts must consider an accused “ability to pay for bail.” Since courts are not prepared to make this analysis, they simply continued the “no bail” policy.
When the word spread that the threat of punishment had been eliminated, crime became easier as the bad guys no longer had to make committing crimes complicated. They simply walked in, “snatched and grabbed,” and walked out to waiting cars.
The next step was similar to that at our southern border where the “catch-and-release” led to entrepreneurial criminals, in that case Mexican gangs, taking control and charging the participants, or migrants, for the opportunity to participate. Already gang leaders have made store thefts a big business that, for example, cost CVS an estimated $200 million a year.
In San Francisco, Walgreens tried putting the items most frequently stolen under locks, but since these items were primarily used for grooming by minorities, they were accused of racism.
Wal Greens closed numerous stores, citing “snatch-and-grabs.” Of course, the politicians argued the closing was already planned.
Following the Wille Sutton quote of “I rob banks because that is where the money is,” gangs in San Francisco attacked Macys and Louis Vuitton in Union Square.
Videos showed groups bringing in slug hammers into jewelry stores to break glass counters. The looting spread to a Nordstrom’s store in the nearby Walnut Hills with the inclusion of multiple get-away cars blocking traffic and also preventing the police access. Like happened in Prohibition, when the criminals organize, there will be violence.
For example, in Oakland when a media crew was filming the theft of a vehicle they planted, their van was broken into and cameras stolen. Threats caused film crews to start including security. However, when bad guys attempted to take the camera equipment of the film crew of KRON-TV at the scene of a “snatch-and-grab” at a clothing store, they shot and killed the security guard and former policeman Kevin Nishita.
The trend moved to Los Angeles where on Dec. 4, 2021, an organization of 14, only one juvenile, were arrested for 10 “smash-and-grabs” of $340,000 and released under the “no bail” policy.
Even Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) and District Attorney George Gascon (D) complained about the release because as of Dec. 6, Mr. Gascon still had not filed charges. Imagine this: a “no bail” release before the court knows the charges? Who sets these policies?
The trend moved east to the usual suspects, such as Chicago with Gov. J.B. Pritzer (D), Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) and District Attorney Kim Foxx (D), where on Dec. 5, Attorney General Kwane Raoul (D) recovered tens of thousands of stolen items worth millions from different storage units: But no arrests.
Mr. Raoul did state a lesson learned at our southern border: that these thefts frequently fund drug trades and human trafficking.
And on to Minneapolis with Gov. Tim Walz (D), Mayor Jacob Frey (D) and District George Floyd (D) where on Black Friday, 20 to 30 bad guys looted a Best Buy store in Burnside.
Again, no arrests.
Where are we headed? When law enforcement is not a threat the trend, as happened in Prohibition, will be for the bad guys to organize into more efficient, violent actions and maybe, following Wille Sutton’s words, move into public and private gatherings.
Consumers and retailers may follow the actions taken at airports in response to the actions of a few bad guys. Costs and inconveniences will rise while privacy rights for consumers in their persons and possessions will fall. Some politicians, such as already done by AOC (D), will openly deny the existence of the problem while many others will deny it by their silence. Loud objections by the minority party have not, and will not, work.
The hope is for San Francisco politicians to again make the city a trend setter, not by patching the dangerous policies, but by revoking them. Much like our southern border, delays bring the problems closer to our faces than a Sal “the barber” Maglie’s fastball.
Brent E. Zepke is an attorney, arbitrator and author who lives in Santa Barbara. Formerly he taught at six universities and numerous professional conferences. He is the author of six books: “One Heart-Two Lives,” “Legal Guide to Human Resources,” “Business Statistics,” “Labor Law,” “Products and the Consumer,” and “Law for Non-Lawyers.”