[OPINION] Pragmatism vs ideology: Why rule of law should not be political

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

In 2016, I was a victim of crime. This came shortly after the passage of Prop 47 when certain violent and property crimes increased due to lighter sentencing.

For me, the result was having my pickup truck stolen. Twelve days later, it would be found stripped apart in Compton, California.

Sadly, this was a statistic all too common in the city of Cerritos. Older vehicles were stolen due to the fact property crimes (especially those under a certain dollar amount) were hardly ever prosecuted. While thankful to not be the victim of a more serious crime, I can still clearly remember the pain I felt, losing some personal possessions, like my favorite pair of bowling shoes and snow boots and the cherished suit I had just picked up from the dry cleaners that was a treasured gift from my now deceased father.

While the loss I felt paled in comparison to those felt by those who have lost loved ones, the common denominator remains: the rule of law must be enforced. Recently, there have been moves for a more “compassionate reform” to the prosecution of crime, but where is the compassion to victims of crime? Where is the notion of personal responsibility and holding habitual criminal offenders accountable for their actions?

In a press release issued by Criminal Justice Legal Foundation President Michael Rushford, he compared crimes reported in 1992 with 2011, when there was tougher sentencing for habitual felons. There were 932,996 (45%) fewer of the seven major crimes, 190,681 (55%) fewer violent crimes, and 2,129 (54%) fewer murders.

“That’s almost one million fewer victims when we were enforcing tough sentencing,” he wrote.

2011 was also the year that repeat offenders did not receive increased sentences and “low-level” crimes, such as property theft or drug offenses had reduced sentences. This leniency extended to many theft and drug crimes not even being reported, creating a culture of fear and complacency in not only the inner cities but also suburban enclaves like Cerritos, which I personally experienced.

So why are we going backward? Because we seem to forget about real data and results in this day and age. It is a well-documented fact that stronger sentencing deters crime. Isn’t prevention the best cure?

But we have an ideological Los Angeles District Attorney who is now refusing to prosecute crimes, especially misdemeanors. Some of these misdemeanors were felonies at one time, but now crimes just continue to be redefined and the threshold for a felony only increasing to the benefit of the criminal.

Not only are we experiencing lighter (or no) sentencing, but on his first day in office, DA George Gascon went against the will of the voters, who voted to retain cash bail (No on 25), by a 56-44 landslide vote, just two months before.

The practical reality is sentencing now doesn’t fit the crime, especially with repeat offenders. This revolving door of criminals (who now get seen with “fresh eyes”) actually go out and commit more crimes — some not even reported, especially property crimes against businesses just forced to take the loss. This was only further compounded in the case of the inmates released into the streets due to the coronavirus and were swiftly readmitted after they committed crimes once released.

Rocky Lee Music was charged with carjacking a Prius about 40 minutes after he was released, and then abandoning it to carjack another person. Owen Aguilar set nine fires less than a week after his release, including setting fire to a homeless man’s tent.

Another man, who was charged with a series of school burglaries, was released without bail, but was quickly rearrested after another series of crimes which included stealing 23 cars from a car rental agency.

Now, violent 17-year-old repeat offenders are tried as juveniles. At the same time, Gascon is encouraging motions to release any defendant that has served 15 years, regardless of the crime they committed. This cookie-cutter approach, with overarching leniency, is advocating for the criminal. Especially in light of how he treats victims, which he ignores, or downright insults, as is in the case of the mother of Joshua Rodriguez, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered.

Instead of showing empathy, he removes sentence enhancements, ignoring the brutality of the crime, and complained that the victim’s family couldn’t “keep their mouth shut”.

Even Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, a fellow Democrat, has come out to support the recall effort against Gascon.

This is not a partisan issue. Republicans, Democrats and Independents all deserve equitable enforcement of the law and the safe in society — that is peace through strength of law enforcement. Sheriffs can make all the lawful arrests, but if the District Attorney is not prosecuting the criminals, they will be in jail and out the next minute, committing those crimes again. It’s really that simple.

Watching all the incidents of crime on Asians throughout the country, it is especially important for me that our Asian cities remain safe and we do everything we can to prevent any more attacks from happening. That is through strict consequences for criminal behavior.

Cerritos, where I was a victim of crime, was an Asian city targeted by “systemic” incidents. So are cities like Arcadia and Diamond Bar, where property crime and burglaries are so commonplace because many criminals target households where people are at work and know that cash is hidden under mattresses at times. This is why neighborhood watches and community partnerships with law enforcement are key.

Can we put our partisan differences aside to work together on this common community issue to foster safety?

Leniency on crime never works. Gascon isn’t working for anyone but the criminals. It’s time for real solutions and real criminal justice reform, with a focus on results.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Marc Ang is the President of Asian Industry B2B and co-chair of the “Recall Gascon Now” campaign, a local Southern California conservative activist and is working on his book “The Minority Retort.” As a thought leader in the Asian community, he has been quoted extensively by national and local media outlets, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, CBS, NBC, ABC, and many more.

Marc Ang

Marc Ang is the President of Asian Industry B2B (aib2b.org) and co-chair of the “Recall Gascon Now” campaign (recallgasconnow.com), a local Southern California conservative activist and is working on his book “The Minority Retort.” As a thought leader in the Asian community, he has been quoted extensively by national and local media outlets, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, CBS, NBC, ABC, and many more.

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