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VICTOR JOECKS: Sisolak gutted penalties for criminals. Now crime is soaring.

It’s not hard to figure out why property crimes are up in Las Vegas. It was the predictable result of Gov. Steve Sisolak and legislative Democrats gutting criminal penalties.

Clark County is less safe than it used to be. The most obvious problem is the increase in homicides. But property crimes are up the upswing, too. Year-to-date, the Metropolitan Police Department has seen a 15 percent increase compared with last year. On and around the Strip, the rate has soared a staggering 45 percent.

Different types of theft, including larceny and stolen vehicles, are up around 20 percent. Once again, it’s worse on the Strip. Las Vegas Boulevard drugstores have had a 39 percent increase in thefts.

That statistic brings to mind the viral videos of people brazenly shoplifting from stores in California. In one video, a thief filled up a garbage bag of items from a San Francisco Walgreens. A man who appears to be a security guard filmed him before the thief biked out of the store with his bag stuffed like a Santa sack. In other cases, large groups stormed stores simultaneously, running out with armfuls of stolen merchandise.

Videos such as those national headlines. They showed the folly of California’s soft-on-crime approach. In 2014, California voters approved an initiative that made thefts worth $950 or less a misdemeanor. Combine that with prosecutors who don’t want to put people in jail and the move away from bail. Even when police arrest suspects for shoplifting, these factors mean they probably will be released almost immediately.

Unfortunately, that destructive approach isn’t limited to California. Nevada’s law is even worse. Stealing something here isn’t a felony until the value of the property is $1,200 or more.

It wasn’t like this before 2019. That’s when Democrats took full control in Carson City for the first time in decades. One of their priorities was making life easier for lawbreakers. Assemblyman Steve Yeager spearheaded Democrats’ efforts to reduce penalties on criminals. He chaired the Judiciary Committee, which sponsored Assembly Bill 236, which reduced penalties on a host of crimes, including theft. The original version of that bill called for raising the threshold of felony theft to a staggering $2,000.

But wait, there’s more. It used to be that stealing more than $3,500 was a category B felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Under AB236, it’s not a category B felony until someone steals something worth $25,000 or more. Separately, Nevada gutted its bail system, too.

Once you start looking, you’ll see the destructive results of this lax approach to penalizing criminals. In June, police arrested a teenager for a killing on Fremont Street. He was already facing a felony charge but had been released on his own recognizance. That has become a pattern. Even the man who caused the panic at the airport Sunday had been arrested the day before for shoplifting.

Sisolak is blaming Sheriff Joe Lombardo, his gubernatorial opponent, for the uptick. Don’t buy it. It doesn’t matter how efficiently police arrest thieves when the law Sisolak and Democrats passed gives them get-out-of-jail-free cards.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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