Antioch Mayor Sean Wright came out Tuesday against a policy introduced by Contra Costa County District Attorney Diane Becton that will let looters go.
“When I read the policy, it was disturbing,” said Mayor Wright. “I understand the difference between protesting and looting. Peaceful protesting is okay, looting is not. For the District Attorney to put out that kind of plan is irresponsible and where do you exactly draw the line on need because these are people’s businesses that are being impacted and livelihoods that are being destroyed.”
He continued by stating this type of position on crime doesn’t help a community and only makes the job of the already stretched thin Antioch Police Department that much more difficult.
Steve Aiello, president of the Antioch Police Officers Association, agreed with Wright saying the policy on looting was not good guidelines.
“It’s reckless for the District Attorney’s Office to have this type of policy because it hurts the community, local business and business owners. It shows the District Attorney’s Office is picking and choosing the types of crimes it will prosecute versus just following the laws on the books,” said Aiello. “At what point, does our District Attorney’s Office advocate for the victims. If its not the District Attorney’s Office, who then becomes the advocate and safety net for the victims and ensuring restitution is made.”
Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office Spokesperson Scott Alonso released a copy of the guidelines at our request.
Theft Offenses Committed During State of Emergency (PC 463)
In order to promote consistent and equitable filing practices the follow analysis is to be
applied when giving consideration to filing of PC 463 (Looting):
1. Was this theft offense substantially motivated by the state of emergency, or simply a theft offense which occurred contemporaneous to the declared state of emergency?
a. Factors to consider in making this determination:
i. Was the target business open or closed to the public during the
state of emergency?
ii. What was the manner and means by which the suspect gained
entry to the target business?
iii. What was the nature/quantity/value of the goods targeted?
iv. Was the theft was committed for financial gain or personal need?
v. Is there an articulable reason why another statute wouldn’t
adequately address the particular incident?
Alonso called the document Office’s guidelines.
“The guidelines were put in place by DA Becton and her senior leadership team because of the pandemic. It is really important to underscore these guidelines are because of the COVID-19 shelter in place. We look at if the theft is because there is a state of emergency – or is this simply an offense contemporaneous to the state of emergency. We wanted to ensure consistency across the Office in considering any criminal charges for alleged violations of PC 463. Historically, prior to COVID-19 – we could find no recent evidence that our Office had filed looting charges during a state of emergency,” stated Alonso. “As you know, when evaluating any criminal case our prosecutors look at the circumstances surrounding the incident. These guidelines are consistent with how we evaluate criminal cases. The policy does not say we won’t file these types of cases. The Red State article is incredibly misleading and frankly written from a slanted point of view. The author of the piece did not reach out to us prior to publication.”
When asked if the District Attorney’s office was becoming racially biased, Alonso dismissed the accusations.
“No, there are no racial filing guidelines or standards for our Office,” stated Alonso. “The question is frankly shocking and I am not sure where that is coming from. I can’t imagine any prosecutor in the country answering yes to that question. All of our prosecutors follow strict ethical standards in handling criminal cases, including the fair and just prosecution of any individual regardless of personal attributes such as gender, race, age or where the person lives.”
Under California State Law, 463 PC states that:
Every person who violates Section 459, punishable as a second-degree burglary…during and within an affected county in a “state of emergency” or a “local emergency” resulting from an earthquake, fire, flood, riot, or other natural or manmade disaster shall be guilty of the crime of looting, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for one year.”
The crime of “looting” in California consists of committing any of the following crimes during a state of emergency which includes burglary, grand theft or petty theft. State of Emergency can be declared by the Governor, State of California or a local government body which is a result of flood, earthquakes, riots, wildfires or storms/weather.