Los Angeles is Trying to Recall the Wrong Elected Official

The elections of George Gascon and Chesa Boudin as the district attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco were historic events. Both men campaigned on progressive platforms aimed at reforming the criminal justice system. Voters, perhaps finally weary of the decades of harm caused by politicians stumbling over themselves to be viewed as tougher on crime than the next, voted for change.

Almost immediately, the law and order crowd commenced plans to recall each of them. The recall effort against Gascon stumbled, initially, failing to qualify for the ballot last year, but appears on track to gather the necessary signatures this year.

Supporters of the recall have sought to tie Gascon’s policies to increases in crime, homicides, and shootings, in particular, arguing that Gascon’s reformation of the manner in which some crimes are prosecuted has emboldened criminals.

The problem is, that the data does not support the argument. During Gascon’s first year in office, the District Attorney filed felonies at a nearly identical rate to that of his predecessor, Jackie Lacey. What has changed since Lacey’s defeat is the rate at which law enforcement is solving crimes. The LAPD went from solving 76% of homicides in 2019 to only 50% last year. The Sheriff’s Department’s homicide clearance rate fell from 71% to 40% over the same time period. Meanwhile, the rising crime rates being blamed on Gascon are being seen nationwide.

Alex Villanueva, who has overseen the Sheriff’s Department that seems to have forgotten how to solve crime has been one of Gascon’s chief critics.

Whether someone believes they will receive a 25-year sentence or a 50-year sentence is not the factor most likely to deter crime, it is whether someone believes they will be caught. When you have an inept Sheriff who is more focused on investigating political rivals and grandstanding for cameras than ensuring that his department is solving crimes, would-be criminals take notice.

If Los Angeles wants to recall someone to make its streets safer, that person should be Alex Villanueva.