A recent report detailing case statistics of District Attorney Gascón’s first year in office has shown an interesting change from his predecessor. Last year, 4,180 cases were referred to his office from the SCV. However, 2,621 were declined – meaning the DA’s office chose not to file any charges. That’s a 62.7% declination rate. During the previous DA’s last year in office, 4,462 cases were presented to the DA by Santa Clarita Sheriff Station deputies and 1,245 were declined. A declination rate of 27.9%.

Officials in the SCV are predictably angry. They believe that Gascón’s actions are a dereliction of his duties as DA, and are putting the safety of the community in jeopardy. It’s worth noting that crime has increased 30% in the SCV since 2016, with a 3% rise in Part 1 Crimes, which include homicides, rape, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, arson, grand theft auto, and larceny-theft.

In their defense, the DA office’s large number of declinations are due to the DA’s belief that drug offenses should be handled with the offender’s entrance into treatment programs instead of being locked up in jail. They point out that the overwhelming majority of the increase in declining to press charges (well over 1,000) was due to the fact that the cases involved one of four minor drug-related offenses, such as possessing a small amount of narcotics for personal use and public intoxication.

It wasn’t described by law enforcement officials how dangerous to the community a person with a small amount of drugs is, nor how effective incarceration with disproportionately long sentences is at treating drug addicts.

Unfortunately, while Gascón’s ideals may or may not be in the right place, critics point out that by declining to press charges, there’s no court intervention mandating that someone guilty of a narcotic offense enter rehab. Currently, those who are arrested on drug-related offenses, such as possessing a small amount of narcotics for personal use, are expected to enter treatment of their own accord – few of whom do.

Some officials think that, if the DA wants to prevent addiction-related offenders from going to jail, charges should still be pressed so the court can order the defendant to seek out and enter a treatment program. They believe that without the threat of jail time, offenders won’t take entering treatment and rehabilitation seriously.

Some of Gascón’s other policies have come under fire as well. His desire to eliminate cash bail, for example, has resulted in an upsurge of repeat offenders – to an absurd degree in some cases. There have been several incidents over the past year where people were arrested and released multiple times in the same day.

Only time will tell if Gascón’s policies will pan out. So far, they aren’t showing a whole lot of promise.