This is an excellent article from the Sacramento Bee on the consequences of downgrading property crime—California’s realignment program in particular—which has resulted in keeping more thieves on the streets and out of prisons.

An excerpt.

“Thirty seconds was all it took. Thirty seconds was all the kid needed.

“At the end of it, I was calling out a license plate number as one barista frantically scribbled on her arm with a marker and another dialed 911. Then I watched helplessly as four young men in a white Ford sedan sped away with the new MacBook Pro I had purchased about three weeks before.

“It happened so fast, it wasn’t even apparent I’d been robbed until the kid was almost out the front door of the Starbucks. He hit the door so hard, the glass cracked.

“I was busy typing an email. I had headphones on. I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. It was a familiar space. I simply took my safety for granted.

“It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to ponder the wisdom of chasing down the thief. I’m 41 years old. He was maybe 19 or 20. What a sight that must have been for the half-dozen witnesses in the cafe as I tore after him, hurtling curses the whole way.

“Turns out, I wasn’t the only victim that afternoon of what’s come to be called “Apple picking.” Less than 10 minutes earlier, the same crew hit another Starbucks a couple of miles up the freeway. That time, they ripped some poor guy’s iPad right out of his hands. Then they drove a mere 75 yards across the parking lot, barged into a Panera Bread Co., and stole somebody else’s laptop.

“Yeah, they were that brazen.

“Thirty seconds was all it took. Thirty seconds cost me $1,700, about three weeks’ worth of sound sleep, and my general sense of security.

“Otherwise, I emerged totally unscathed.

“The way the local newspapers reported it, in a few drab column inches, there were only two thefts. In fact, as I learned later from an employee, at least two dozen Starbucks locations throughout Southern California’s Inland Empire had been hit within a few days. Matter of fact, a couple of days earlier, two other people had their devices – a phone and a laptop – grabbed from the same store where I was sitting that afternoon.

“What are the police doing about all this? As much as they can, given the resources they have. In a news release, the Fontana Police Department advised people to “try to limit the public display of cell phones and other electronic items that may attract the attention of potential thieves.”

“That isn’t good enough.

“Trouble is, the state doesn’t treat property crime quite as seriously as it did just a couple of years ago.

“When the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 ordered 37,000 felons released from California’s state prisons to remedy what Justice Anthony Kennedy called “serious constitutional violations,” the Legislature responded with a “realignment” of the state’s felony sentencing and parole rules.”