Last night we saw how rotgut Trumpists and billionaires are trying to recall top notch San Francisco D.A., Chesa Boudin, by twisting statistics and flooding the zone with millions of dollars in false ads. Something very similar is happening in L.A., although the oligarchs (who kicked in over $3 million already) and Trumpists are having a harder time gathering enough signatures to force a recall against George Gascón. And now even the fear-mongering L.A. Times is admitting the manufactured bad rap on Gascón is politically-contrived bullshit. "Proponents of the effort to recall Gascón have accused him of creating a 'pro-criminal paradise' and causing a crime spike through policies aimed at reducing mass incarceration, including his refusal to try juveniles as adults, prosecute certain misdemeanors or file most sentencing enhancements. But an analysis of the L.A. County district attorney’s office filing rates, homicide solve rates and crime statistics paints a far more complicated picture of the surge in violence than the one some of Gascón’s enemies have sketched. Although recall proponents claim there are no consequences for criminals in L.A. County, records show that during Gascón’s first year in office, prosecutors filed felonies at a near identical rate to what they did during Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey’s two terms as the county’s top prosecutor. When it came to less serious misdemeanor cases, Gascón did file far fewer charges than Lacey, records show."
But that isn't the only place the oligarchs are trying to wrest control away from L.A.'s working and middle class. One of the worst of L.A.'s oligarchs, predator billionaire Rick Caruso, is running for mayor himself on a platform of lies and with millions of his own dollars behind him. Never heard of him? He's the guy flooding everyone's mailboxes with thick mailers every few days, making his consultants richer and richer. A team of 4 L.A. Times reporters reported today that Caruso has been lying his ass off about crime statistics, same tactics as the billionaire class is using against Gascón and against Boudin in San Francisco.
His statement on the debate stage Friday that "Los Angeles was experiencing some of the worst crime in the city’s history... was not accurate. Not by a long shot. But the sentiment Caruso is trying to convey-- that the city is in dire straits, with a populace plagued by fear-- is central to his insurgent campaign for mayor." Like Trump, Caruso talks out of his ass and thinks-- because he's rich and surrounded by yes men who's lives he controls and are afraid to ever disagree with him-- he can say whatever he wants to regardless of facts. Many political observers say Caruso would be the absolute worst mayor in Los Angeles' storied history.
During a debate where safety and perceptions of it took up substantial airtime, the candidates were asked if they felt safe in the neighborhoods they called home. Most said they did-- though Caruso didn’t specifically answer the question (his comments on safety came later in the night).
In the days that followed, Times reporters visited several neighborhoods across the city, including areas where the five debate participants live, to ask residents how safe they feel.
After interviews with dozens of Angelenos in San Pedro, Baldwin Hills, Brentwood, Beverly Grove and Eagle Rock (home to Councilman Joe Buscaino, Rep. Karen Bass, Caruso, City Atty. Mike Feuer and Councilmen Kevin de León, respectively), as well as parts of South L.A. and the Valley, a nuanced picture emerged that ran counter to Caruso’s rhetoric.
During the debate, Caruso said everybody in the city “at every corner of the city, no matter where you live, what your background is, is scared to walk out their doors”-- a sentiment that was not reflected in most of the interviews.
The increase in crime is real, as are people’s fears. But in the mayoral candidates’ own neighborhoods-- where many residents either were unaware of or knew very little about the June election-- panic about safety is far from pervasive.
Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer known for carefully curated properties such as the Grove and Americana at Brand, has put public safety at the center of his campaign. He has called for the city to add 1,500 more cops and wants prosecutors to bring more cases against misdemeanor offenders.
In more affluent neighborhoods such as Brentwood and Beverly Grove, many residents said they feel safe walking on the streets and that they are thinking of other priorities such as controlling high gas prices and costs of living. In other parts of the city where no candidates live, such as South L.A., more residents said they feel unsafe walking outside.
...Like other major cities around the country, Los Angeles has seen violent crime go up in recent years. The 397 fatal shootings in 2021 were more than any other year in the last decade — and 50% more than in 2020. Homicides and shootings, though, are down over the same period as last year, according to data from mid-March.
Also through mid-March, property crime was up more than 5% over last year. Vehicle thefts are up nearly 44% compared with the same point in 2020. Robberies are up nearly 18% over the same period as last year as well.
Still, these numbers pale compared with 1993, for example, when there were nearly 1,100 homicides inside the city limits.
Caruso said a week after the debate that comparing current crime levels to 1990s highs was a “ridiculous basis” to judge safety, which he characterized as “a very personal feeling.”
It’s based on how “somebody takes and assimilates information. It is through a whole bunch of sources. So you’re seeing things on the news. You’re looking at reports. You’re seeing the homeless. Depending on where you are, that may cause some fear, and you see some statistics,” he said. “You can tell [people] it’s safer than 1990. That’s not going to make them feel better when they want their kids to go walk to school.”
He also recently spent time in Koreatown where he heard from residents who are worried about hate crimes, which have been well publicized and on the rise.
Fear-based appeals have “been used for tremendous success in different elections, both at the national level as well as at the local level,” said Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, chair of the USC political science and international relations department.
Hancock Alfaro said she thought public safety would likely remain one of the dominant issues in the race. Certain high-profile crimes, such as smash-and-grab robberies, are particularly alarming to people, regardless of whether their numbers have substantially increased, she said.
Another factor is that now “there really is a shift of the pendulum in the aftermath of George Floyd,” Hancock Alfaro said.
In the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s murder, political attitudes locally and nationally shifted sharply in the direction of police and criminal justice reform. Now, almost two years later, Hancock Alfaro sees public opinion locally and nationally “swinging a bit back to the center.”
Like Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, a conservative who switched parties when he decided to run for higher office, Caruso is a conservative Republican who just switched parties a few weeks ago so he could pretend to be a Democrat in his race for mayor. Does he really think Angelenos are that stupid? Dorothy Reik, a member of the executive board of the Los Angeles Democratic Party noted that "Two scumbag Democrats support the recall. One is an ex-cop whose district has the highest crime rate in the city because he's been too busy campaigning for mayor-- a job he will never get-- to spend time helping his constituents. The other is Rick Caruso who is angling to make enough money on the job-- if he gets elected-- to buy himself a second $100 million yacht; after all you need one for the Mediterranean and one for the Caribbean."