Criminals taking ‘full advantage’ of lax sentencing as retail, violent crime increases: ‘becoming more brazen’

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As major U.S. cities continue to deal with crime waves, experts are blaming anti-police rhetoric and liberal district attorneys for policies that fail to keep the public safe. 

Each era has had its fair share of heinous crimes. Yet, Nancy Grace, who hosts Fox Nation’s “Crime Stories with Nancy Grace,” admitted that she’s seen enough to convince her that today’s criminals are more brazen than ever. She chalked it up to lax sentencing and the anti-police movement. 

There was a time when I would have said, I don’t think crime is worse per capita than it was in the past, where there are just greater populations and therefore a commensurate greater population of criminals,” Grace told Fox News Digital. 

“They are more brazen, and I now believe there are more of them per capita, more criminals per capita,” she said. “Why? The decline in police numbers, the anti-police movement.” 

Floyd protests

Nancy Grace said anti-police rhetoric is one reason for increasing crime across the nation.  (REUTERS/Terray Sylvester)

Soaring retail theft has been reported across the country in recent months. Nordstrom and Whole Foods, for example, were among the large chains abandoning San Francisco partly due to employee safety. The latter’s location on Market Street was hit with nearly 600 calls of violence, drugs, and vagrants before shutting its doors, according to reports. Meanwhile, organized retail crime was on track to cost Target $500 million in profits, CEO Brian Cornell warned in May.

Violent incidents are increasing” at Target, and throughout the retail industry, Cornell said.

Washington, D.C., is experiencing a 30 percent increase in violent crime in 2023 compared to last year, other reports have found. One hundred and twenty-five people have been shot and killed this year, a 17 percent increase from last year as the city struggles with a police staffing crisis. The city’s police budget was cut roughly $23 million by the city council in 2020 amid the George Floyd rioting and nationwide calls to defund the police.

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Criminal defense attorney Joseph Gutheinz, a certified fraud examiner for 33 years told Fox News Digital the criminal justice system has it backwards by focusing on the needs of criminals.

“Our criminal justice system has largely transitioned from focusing on the needs of the victims of crime to the needs of defendants,” he told Fox News Digital. “The police are concerned about being ridiculed, prosecuted or fired for enforcing the law and are backing off stopping, interviewing and arresting wrongdoers.”

Prosecutors, especially in big cities, are rubber-stamping the plea deals offered by defense attorneys, such as myself, and judges, especially in big cities, are more and more appearing as social workers rather than jurists.”

A Target shop in 2021

Organized retail crime has cost Target close to $500 million in profits, CEO Brian Cornell warned in May. (Reuters)

The Manhattan Institute’s Rafael Mangual also sensed that the system has been moving in a dire direction. 

“That direction is to make crime less costly, to commit and to make the law more costly to enforce,” he told Fox Digital. “Every single significant policy level that’s been pulled does one of the following things that either limits police power, it curbs prosecutor discretion, or it just significantly lowers the transaction cost of criminal behavior for defendants by making penalties less likely, less severe, etc.”

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He cited bail reform as an example, which stirred controversy in cities like New York and Los Angeles. Some officials adopted zero bail during the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to reduce crowding in prisons, dropping bail to as low as $0 for suspects accused of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. When Los Angeles decided to reinstate the policy in July, high profile figures spoke out.

“LA is finished watch how bad it gets out there.SMH [shaking my head],” rapper 50 Cent tweeted of the move.

A study published by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office found that suspects released without bail reoffended 70 percent more often than those who posted bail, and were rearrested on 163 percent more charges. Suspects released without bail were also accused of three times as many violent crimes.

Cook County Jail

Suspects released on bail reoffend 70 percent more often than those who posted bail, according to the Yolo County District Attorney’s office.  (REUTERS/Jim Young)

But bail reform advocates say the current system disproportionately affects minorities and the poor, leaving many to sit behind bars simply because they cannot afford to pay their bail.

“The way that lots of jurisdictions have gone about this in practice is to basically make it so that it’s nearly impossible for the vast majority of criminal defendants to end up in pretrial detention because cash bail is taken off the table,” Mangual said. 

“Any criminal on the street can tell you they will walk right into the jailhouse, they’ll give a fingerprint and right back out,” Grace agreed. “There’s nothing to fear. Nobody is going to stay in jail. They’ll just be a minor inconvenience to shuffle papers and then they’ll walk right back out to re-offend. I know it’s a bleak picture, but it’s true. And cops, district attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement across the board are struggling under the weight of the ‘bail reform.’”

“There’s no fear of apprehension,” Grace said. “And once one is apprehended, a criminal will immediately walk straight out of jail. There’s nothing to fear.”

The experts also agreed that a factor playing into criminals’ hands are district attorneys who are “shirking” their responsibilities by failing to prosecute some crimes. 

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“I get about 20 percent of my cases dismissed outright, and many of those cases are meritorious,” Gutheinz said. “Certain sex, theft and assault cases are routinely dismissed. It is my job to win my cases for my clients, but as a citizen myself, with a large family, I would like it if the prosecutors would at least pretend to care about the victims of crime.”

“They don’t state up front how lax their offices and their administration will be and their true feelings about crime and putting criminals behind bars and keeping them behind bars,” Grace said of some DAs. “And then once they get in, they have an ‘awakening’ and they go – I hate this phrase it’s so overused – ‘woke.’ Lax. It’s really just simply not doing your job. They don’t have the backbone to get in and try to lose it, or they don’t want this stain on their record of losing. I’m not sure what their motivation is, but they are not protecting the people they’re sworn to defend.”

Non-law abiding citizens are well aware of the struggling system and are taking “full advantage” of the cracks in it, some of these same experts say.

“I think it’s absolutely the case that a significant subset of chronic offenders are 100 percent aware of what’s going on in the criminal justice system, and they’re taking full advantage,” Mangual said. “I don’t think it’s it is it comes as a surprise that we have seen, for example, a massive uptick in retail theft at a time in which, you know, the criminal justice system has been moving in the direction of prioritizing enforcement for retail theft.”

Mangual called for revisiting the idea of a “modified version of three strikes,” in which individuals are being taken off the street for repeated criminal conduct. Because, he said, there are a group of offenders that has “no intention of abiding by societal norms.” He also lobbied for “truth in sentencing,” which would require “hamstringing the ability of irresponsible parole boards to release people who are not ready to be released.” Finally, he said, criminal data needs to be made more widely available to the public, which will in turn provide communities a more sober sense of reality and would prevent the criminal justice reform movement to mislead the public into “misguided” policy decisions.

With an environment that has allegedly made communities ripe for the picking for criminals, one might think that criminal justice professionals have lost faith in society. But that wasn’t the case for the majority of experts and judges who spoke to Fox Digital. 

Although the trio of judges on Amazon Freevee’s “Tribunal Justice” have witnessed their share of “horrible” behavior in courtrooms as litigants lie, shout, curse or worse, each of them said not all hope was lost. 

“To be sure, I have seen a lot of people do and say horrible things to one another, not just in the courtroom, but a lot of these cases end up in our forum and in other fora because people can just be horrible,” Judge Tanya Acker, who served as Temporary Judge in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, told Fox News Digital. “I mean, they can be horrible and sometimes no standards, no manners, no morals, like nothing. There are some people who seem to be completely bereft of any redeeming quality. However, that’s not most people. And even for those people who are only seeing a small sliver of who they are, I have also seen much more compassion. I have seen much more of people willing to step up and do the right thing, than I have the contrary.”  

“I have much more hope than not,” Acker said, while admitting it’s easy to get discouraged. 

“Just speaking for me, I can sometimes be very discouraged by the conduct and the behaviors and the things that you see and the things that even give rise to litigation and lawsuits,” she continued. “People are just so much better than that. They’re so much better than they sometimes appear to be in a courtroom. And I think that I certainly think that on the whole, I know we’ve got some dark moments, but on the whole, we’re on the upswing. If you look at the totality of our circumstances, we’re on the upswing. Much, much work to do. Many litigants who may need to be reminded that you couldn’t show up in court and act out. But on the whole, I think we’re moving in the right direction.” 

“I don’t think you can lose hope for society,” Judge Patricia DiMango, a former New York State Supreme Court Justice who previously served with Acker on “Hot Bench,” agreed. “I think that there is a more than a glimmer of hope for society. I think the problem is, however, that we need to get back to center. I think it happens a lot… You go all the way out, but you’ve got to kind of come back in. You’ve got to be able to have a discourse, a civil discourse with people so that people can hear one another.”  

Judge Adam Levy, a former district attorney in New York’s Putnam County and the son of Judge Judith Sheindlin, better known to fans as Judge Judy, was just as adamant that the good eggs outnumber the bad apples.

Judge Tanya Acker, Judge Patricia DiMango, Judge Adam Levy pose in blue robes

Adam Levy, right, is Judge Judy Sheindlin’s son, and stars with Judge Tanya Acker and Judge Patricia DiMango in the new series “Tribunal Justice.” (Michael Becker/Amazon Freevee)

“There is a glimmer of hope,” Levy told Fox Digital. “There are good people out there. There are way more good people than there are bad people. Way more good than bad. It’s how we deal with the bad ones, though. When you get a bad one and it’s your job as the judge, as a prosecutor, as a police officer to do your job, to hold them accountable, you need to do that with fairness and without fear or favor. Without fear or favor. And if you can do that and if you can affect just those that small number of the bad apples, then we’d all be much better off. But I have hope.” 

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“I have great hope,” Nancy Grace said. “Because, even with all the cases I cover, good people by far outweigh the number of bad people. And even if they didn’t, as long as there’s something good to believe in, to fight for, to protect, I’m willing to keep fighting.”

The interviews with Levy, Acker and DiMango were completed prior to the commencement of the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Fox News’ Nikolas Lanum, Andrew Mark Miller and Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.

For more Culture, Media, Education, Opinion, and channel coverage, visit foxnews.com/media.



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