May 05, 2020
In one of 2020’s finest ironies, most of us spent the 75th anniversary of Hitler’s death confined to our own personal bunkers, hiding from a malevolent menace from the East.
The Führer’s posthumous revenge for all those Downfall parody videos.
In the month before the lockdown, I’d been working on a true-crime story about an urban wrongdoer whose evasion of capture defied common sense. At the time, I had no way of knowing how instructive that story would turn out to be.
On December 14th of last year, there was a theft of almost a dozen packages from the lobby of an apartment building at 2117 Haste Street in Berkeley, California. The thief, a young black woman, was making a food delivery for DoorDash. After being buzzed in and handing the food to her customer, the DoorDasher, now alone in the lobby, gathered the packages piled under the residents’ mailboxes and calmly walked out with them. Most of those packages were Christmas gifts.
The thief’s image was caught clear as day on the security cameras; she hadn’t even attempted to hide her face. More than that, her identity and her vehicle’s make and plates were on file with DoorDash. Apprehending this woman was a no-brainer; DoorDash knew exactly who she was.
Yet the police didn’t nab her.
In late February, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to do a little digging. Why hadn’t this woman been arrested? I made a royal nuisance of myself to the Berkeley Police Department and DoorDash. Initially, Berkeley PD public information officer Byron White tried to pass the buck to DoorDash. The company, I was told, had refused to turn over the woman’s info. But a senior DoorDash communications manager informed me that the situation was a bit more nuanced than that. She explained that it’s company policy to only turn over employee information in response to a court order. Yes, DoorDash absolutely had the name and info of the thief, and the company had reached out repeatedly to Berkeley PD brass, letting them know that the info is theirs for the taking if a court order is presented. DoorDash assured Berkeley PD that the court order wouldn’t be fought; it would be complied with immediately.
Following my inquiries, DoorDash once again sent a reminder to Berkeley PD that the thief’s info is right there, waiting for them.
I cornered Officer White (a genuinely nice guy, but I was in full Columbo nuisance mode): Why has your department not responded to DoorDash’s repeated requests for a court order? Somewhat exasperatedly, White told me that the higher-ups in the department and the higher-ups in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office don’t consider these kinds of crimes worthy of pursuit. Yes, they could get a court order; no, they will not. Remember: This is California, where property crimes have essentially been decriminalized. A dozen innocent people had their Christmas gifts stolen by a brazen thief whose identity could easily be discovered, but the state, and dozens of Democrat-controlled cities, simply do not care about you and your precious little “property.”
The Christmas thief got away clean. I nicknamed her Dystopia D’NaeNae because this kind of nonenforcement is our bleak future (plus, Rollo Tomasi was already taken). I asked Officer White if he thought his department’s refusal to easily close a media-covered open case would embolden other criminals in the community to act with impunity.
He didn’t reply.
Dystopia D’NaeNae’s case reveals the ugly truth behind the “progressive prosecution” movement. The goal of progressive prosecution (which I wrote about in greater detail here) is to decriminalize all but the most extreme offenses. Citations only—no arrests, no prosecutions. This dispatch by the Glendora (Southern California) police department tells us all we need to know about progressive prosecution. In the space of one day, a noble, oppressed nonwhite went on a one-man crime spree in the city, and each time he was caught, he had to be let go with only a citation. Literally, in one 24-hour period, this one man kept the department busy with re-offense after re-offense, as cops were powerless to do anything but write him a ticket and send him on his way to the next crime. Progressive prosecution (as I explained in the aforementioned column) is all about “racial justice,” not criminal justice. And it infects dozens of major U.S. cities (not just in California) like a disease.
However, even though the goal of progressive prosecution is to lower the number of incarcerated nonwhites by eliminating arrests for all but the most over-the-top heinous crimes, that’s not how the movement has been sold to voters. Whites, homeowners, and business owners have been told that “non-arrest” policing is necessary because police and prosecutors are stretched too thin. They don’t have the time, resources, or manpower to go after muggers, housebreakers, shoplifters, and street assaulters. Oh, they’d like to! But it’s just not possible with the meager and finite tools they have.
Dystopia D’NaeNae exposed that pathetic excuse for the lie that it is. It would have taken nothing more than a routine request for a court order to clear that case. No hours of investigative work, no manpower, no resources. No cops on overtime, no double duty. Yet still, the progressive prosecutors in Alameda County refused to lift a finger to make an arrest or recover the stolen items. D’NaeNae could not have made her crime easier to solve; she was literally saying, “Come get me.” And to that extent, we owe her a debt of gratitude, as no Berkeley progressive can ever again claim that crimes go unpursued because of thin resources. Dystopia D’NaeNae proved that crimes like hers go unpursued because progressive prosecutors don’t want to pursue them. It’s a conscious choice.
Three months ago, here’s where this column would have ended. But within days of wrapping up D’NaeNae’s story, the pandemic hit. And the progressive prosecution movement was exposed nationwide. Remember, the rationale for that movement is, police departments are stretched too thin to go after property crimes and simple assaults. The resources just don’t exist to pursue “small” incidents. But in the past six weeks, across the nation we’ve seen cops ordered by governors and mayors to arrest, fine, and threaten joggers, hikers, nature walkers, moms taking their kids to a park, and kids playing with other kids in private homes. We’ve seen cops form blockades around skate parks and drag swimmers and paddleboarders from the ocean. Cops have busted people for giving haircuts and manicures in their own home, for fishing, and for watching the sunset.
In Oxnard, it took two mounted policemen to tell a married couple in their 90s that they couldn’t sit in chairs (the “no chairs” policy is unofficially known as “Carlito’s Way”). In L.A., a chorus line of cops formed a gauntlet to keep residents from walking on the beach. At a park right up the street from me, three units responded to reports of kids playing catch. And when my friend’s local AA chapter tried to hold a meeting in another park, with each member sitting the required six feet apart, the LAPD descended as if Dillinger were back from the dead.
How can we ever pretend all this didn’t happen the next time progressive DAs (like the one running in November against incumbent Jackie Lacey here in L.A.) claim that there’s just not the time, manpower, or resources to go after thieves, muggers, and shoplifters? If you can go after beach-walkers and at-home barbers, you can go after burglars.
Now, I know what the progressive prosecution supporters (who also happen to be the most vocal proponents of inflexible lockdowns) will say in response. They’ll claim that “micromanagement policing” is necessary in the face of the pandemic, because such seemingly innocent activities as walking in a park and playing in a yard might (in theory) lead to illness or death.
Ah, but therein lies the hypocrisy. The guiding principle of the progressive prosecution movement is that cities must never engage in “preemptive” policing. Preemptive policing was the theory behind successful policies like “three strikes.” The thug with three felony convictions for violent (but nonfatal) muggings needs to be put away before he finally kills someone. The idea was, take the baddies off the street before they commit murder. Conversely, progressive prosecutors reject any focus on preventing future crimes. Judge criminals only on what they’ve done; never notice patterns or use foresight. Don’t look ahead. It’s not the state’s job to pass judgment on what you might do.
But progressive prosecution leftists are using the lockdowns to harass ordinary citizens based solely on unfounded concerns over what might happen if they take a walk or watch a sunset. This is an extreme, lunatic example of preemptive policing. Three strikes was scuttled by progressive prosecution activists because it’s “unfair” to criminals to judge them based on what might happen should they be allowed to roam free. Yet apparently it’s not unfair to law-abiding citizens to arrest or harass them based on fantastic notions of what might happen should they be allowed to roam free.
“You can’t sit outside and watch the sunset because you might breathe on a butterfly that will carry your germs to a tree with lemons that might be picked by a child to make lemonade for his grandma, and she’ll die!” The likelihood that walking along a beach will spread Covid is about a million times lower than the likelihood that a thrice-convicted felon’s crimes will escalate in severity each time he avoids imprisonment.
Pro-lockdown leftists bray about how they’re “protecting the old and weak.” These are the same “old and weak” who are most at risk from the felons who rob and assault with impunity because they know they’ll only face catch-and-release.
“That thug mugged three old ladies? Give him another chance, to hell with the risks to the elderly.” “That illegal alien has five DUIs? Let him stay! You don’t know for sure he’ll do it again.”
In a perfect world, lockdown enforcement would be the death knell for the progressive prosecution movement. But it won’t be. Voters have short memories, and by the time November rolls around, most will have forgotten how thousands of cops worked tirelessly to prevent nature walks and haircuts. And when the progressives once again talk about how police departments don’t have the resources to sweat the small stuff, mush-minded voters will nod and say, “Makes sense.”
Oblivious voters will be at the mercy of those who aren’t oblivious—the progressives, for whom the lockdowns have been one big, wonderful lesson in how average Americans don’t need coherent rationalizations for policies that negatively affect their lives, and the Dystopia D’NaeNaes, who can’t wait for stores to reopen so they can smile at the security cameras as they strip the shelves bare, secure in the knowledge that enforcement and arrest are reserved for the real criminals: kids having playdates and 93-year-old beachgoers sitting in chairs.