Repeat Violent Offenders Expose Folly of Criminal Justice Policies

November 30, 2022

Dear Editor,

Among eight individuals arrested for serious violent crimes in Santa Monica over roughly the past four months, virtually all had been released from jail recently.

Their violent crime arrests were for murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, hate crime, as well as other charges.

They were arrested for those violent crimes after a glut of crime-friendly criminal justice policies shortened or eliminated their jail time for previous offenses, even for repeat offenders and those with a history of violence. All this, according to published news reports and publicly available law enforcement records.

For example, in mid-November a homeless man was arrested for robbery and multiple stabbings near the beach (“Homeless Man Arrested after Stabbing Two at Santa Monica Beach,” November 18, 2022).

Two weeks before the beach attacks SMPD had arrested this violent offender for battery on a person (i.e., punching or hitting someone). But instead of remaining jailed on the battery charge he was released on a citation the same day, based on his “promise to appear” in court in a month.

Also in mid-November, a man was arrested near Reed Park for assault with a deadly weapon, as well as possession of drug paraphernalia. He had received releases from jail on two felony arrests this summer, once on his “own recognizance” and once to “suitable placement” in lieu of jail (“LETTERS -- Drug Abuse Is Far from Victimless,” September 27, 2022).

Within a week of those violent confrontations, a man was arrested at a Santa Monica fast-food restaurant after lunging at a customer with a knife and threatening to kill him. Two days before, the arrestee had been released from a Santa Monica misdemeanor charge under the “Alternatives to Incarceration” program, which allows arrestees to avoid jail if they “self-report experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, or mental health issues.”

An armed robbery at a second Santa Monica fast-food restaurant occurred a few weeks earlier. The robber had been released from jail four times over the Summer, three of the four within a day of being arrested.

Meanwhile, in late October two homeless individuals attempted to steal alcoholic beverages from a Santa Monica convenience store. After store employees prevented the theft, one of the men returned with a handgun and fired into the store (“Botched Robbery Leads to Two Arrests,” October 31, 2022).

SMPD apprehended both men. Charges included attempted murder, attempted robbery, and firearms violations. Both men had prior arrest records: one had received a same-day release from jail just a few weeks earlier, while the other had been previously jailed for battery.

Unfortunately, the pattern of habitual offenders being released to commit violent crimes in Santa Monica goes on and on.

Shortly after Labor Day, a homeless man threatened a passerby with a knife while yelling racist threats. When the passerby tried to walk away, the attacker stabbed him in the back. Yet SMPD had arrested this attacker three times over the Summer, only to see him released each time, including a “Short Sentence Release” one month before the hate-crime stabbing.

Lastly, the killer who committed the late-Summer homeless-on-homeless knife homicide at Santa Monica’s Main Library had been released from jail on probation three weeks before, despite having several previous arrests on both felony and misdemeanor charges ("Man Fatally Stabbed in Library Courtyard," August 1, 2022).

These violent local crimes expose the folly of City, County, and Judicial criminal justice policies. Whether enacted altruistically or unwittingly, these policies simply offer chronic offenders too many ways to avoid jail.

As well, these recent violent crimes expose the deficiency of the familiar debate over whether the key purpose of incarceration should be punishment or rehabilitation, ignoring the public-safety benefit of thwarting crime by separating dangerous offenders from potential victims.

If violent criminals arrested here had remained in custody for their earlier crimes, Santa Monica’s residents, visitors, and workforce would not have suffered their subsequent criminal behavior.

What to do about this?

Residents and Business owners: Prepare for an encounter with potentially violent criminals. Familiarize yourselves with professionally developed advice such as avoidance, escape, compliance, and defense. Insist that City, County, State, and Judicial officials, including the newly elected, rescind the failed policies that release habitual offenders to commit more crimes.

City Council: Insist on greater accountability from those who administer or operate any program -- City, County, or State -- that released a chronic offender who subsequently committed a violent crime in Santa Monica. Increase police funding; constantly re-arresting the same violent lawbreakers drains police resources and morale.

State and County Officials representing Santa Monica: Demand greater accountability for programs within your jurisdictions. Amplify any City effort to reverse policies that allow repeat offenders to commit violent crime here.

Bottom line: The status quo is indefensible. Demolish it.


Peter DiChellis - Unaffiliated moderate
Santa Monica – 90403

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