The severe consequences of Proposition 47 in the Oakdale community were evident as Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson gave an overview of rural crime affecting local agriculture at the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce’s 43rd Annual Ag Scholarship Luncheon at the Bianchi Community Center on March 17.
Proposition 47, passed by voters in 2014, lessened some felony crimes to misdemeanors, now triggering a slew of repeat offenders that continue breaking the law with little consequence from the justice system.
“Prop 47 took drug related crimes and lessened or decriminalized them,” Sheriff Christianson said, stating there has been a paradigm shift from the Three Strikes Law days. “If we strip accountability and criminality from our (justice) system, we’re doing a disservice to our victims and community.”
Christianson said crimes of methamphetamine possession, gun theft, and even some burglaries are now categorized as misdemeanors leading to apprehended offenders being released on only a ticket. He told the audience to keep in mind that this was not what the department wanted to do, but what they were mandated to do by the courts and legislature.
“(Drug) Addiction is an epidemic and that epidemic is fueling property crimes,” Christianson said, pointing out that agriculture crimes such as theft fell into that category. He compared the current state of affairs with criminals arrested to his fly fishing past in Montana – “all catch and release.”
“But just like fishing in Montana, we’ll catch them again,” Christianson said.
Christianson, who has been sheriff since 2006, stated the department focusses on the “Three P’s” of prevention, protection, and prosecution in fighting crime in the community.
When addressing the prevention aspect, Christianson identified a program where the department will apply unique owner identification to farm equipment and other susceptible property leading to a higher chance of recovery and return to a crime victim.
He complimented his Ag/Rural Crimes investigators, Adam Basmajian and Ryan Jenkins, stating they were highly effective, especially when receiving help and cooperation from the community.
“Law enforcement won’t be successful by ourselves,” Christianson said, asking that victims, witnesses be willing to testify in court. “I need support of the community countywide … to hold criminals accountable.”
The annual scholarship luncheon is held during National Ag Week and sponsored by the chamber to bring awareness to local agriculture trades with guest speakers addressing topics surrounding those industries. Each year the chamber of commerce gives at least two scholarships to high school seniors that are going into an agriculture related field of business. The lunch is one of the ways to raise scholarship funds.
Prior to answering questions from the audience, Sheriff Christianson spoke highly of FFA programs benefitted by the lunch, recognizing that their curriculums kept kids focused on a life of success and education rather than “gangs and methamphetamine.”
“Of course this is always a great event for the community and as a result the chamber is able to give sometimes up to four scholarships,” Oakdale Chamber of Commerce President John Lane said. “As a non-ag businessman, this also gives me another chance to connect with our local ag community which contributes so much to our economy.”
Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Guardiola said this year’s lunch was attended by over 240 individuals.