Los Angeles DA George Gascon sits on 15,000 unfiled cases as robberies skyrocket

(The Center Square) — As homicides and robberies continue to rise, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon has created a backlog of 15,000 unfiled criminal cases, leading to concerns that unprosecuted criminals in the zero-bail county are able to stay on the streets and keep committing new crimes without any consequences.

While LAPD did not respond to a public records request on updated crime data by the time of publication as the department adopts a new crime reporting system, a LAPD public information officer told The Center Square there were 438 gunshot victims and homicides are up 11%, robberies up 17.6%, motor vehicle theft up 5.2%, and burglaries up 2.4% year-over-year for January 1 through June 1 of 2024 compared to 2023.

“Murders in LA are increasing while falling throughout the country, robberies are up significantly. Gun violence is a huge problem in LA and not charging gun enhancements, and not prosecuting juvenile gun murderers is the wrong policy,” said Nathan Hochman, a former federal prosecutor running against Gascon in the November election, to The Center Square.

“There is now reportedly a backlog of 15,000 unfiled cases that are gathering dust because prosecuting crime is not a priority to Gascon,” Hochman continued. “This means thousands of criminals who should be prosecuted are instead on the streets committing new crimes — and we are less safe as a result.”

When Gascon first took office in 2020, he instituted a policy of seeking zero sentencing enhancements, not prosecuting minors for any misdemeanors — with many felonies for minors directed to diversion programs — and not prosecuting 13 common misdemeanors, including trespass, driving with no license or a suspended license, criminal threats, drinking in public and public intoxication, and loitering to commit prostitution.

Under Gascon’s initiatives and Prop. 47, which was passed by California voters in 2014 made thefts under $950 in resale value and many drug crimes misdemeanors, minors in Los Angeles County can largely shoplift or burglarize without risk of criminal prosecution, a factor that could account for some of the difference between the significant increase in reported robberies — a felony involving threats or use of force — and the only slight increase in reported burglaries that, as misdemeanors, might not be likely to be prosecuted.

California followed Gascon in no longer prosecuting prostitution-related loitering, removing the misdemeanor from the state books entirely at the beginning of 2023 and leading to a major prostitution boom in Los Angeles.

Last October, Los Angeles County adopted a court-ordered zero-bail policy for most crimes, allowing most criminals back on the street with a notice to appear in court, a move widely opposed by local law enforcement and elected officials for threatening public safety.

Once LAPD completes its ongoing transition to the National Incident-Based Reporting System that allows up to 10 crimes to be reported per incident, instead of just the most serious crime in an incident in the hierarchy-based Summary Reporting System phased out nationally in 2021, a more worrisome picture of Los Angeles crime could emerge.

“I don’t know when our system will be up,” an LAPD spokesman said when asked about its transition status.

Once NIBRS is adopted, along with an update that will allow LAPD officers to file crime reports from mobile devices instead of having to type them up at the station, it’s likely increased ease of reporting and the NIBRS change in reporting classifications will result in even higher, but more accurate criminal reporting.

Hochman said LADA is about 250 prosecutors short of where it should be given the current backlog, but significant increases in reported crime due to increased faith in prosecution could up demand for prosecutors even further.

LADA did not respond to phone and email request for comment by time of publication.

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