For Immediate Release
Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to recent media reports which spread unsupported claims that property crimes increased in the wake of State Question 780 reforms that recategorized low-level drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors:
In the months after State Question 780 went into effect, Oklahomans reported fewer theft crimes to law enforcement agencies across the state. The early results of Oklahoma’s landmark justice reform add to the evidence that it is possible to reduce both crime and punishment at the same time.
Data from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation show that statewide reports of theft fell six percent in the second half of 2017 compared to the previous year. This occurred after SQ 780 raised the felony theft threshold — the dollar value that defines a theft as a felony — from $500 to $1,000. These trends echo the track record of this reform nationally; 35 states across the country raised their felony theft thresholds between 2001 and 2016, and those states saw similar reductions in theft crimes to the other 15 states.
Oklahoma can’t afford to fall for old scare tactics against criminal justice reform that are unsupported by evidence. For decades, Oklahoma has pursued some of the harshest and most expensive criminal justice policies in the nation without seeing a payoff of better public safety compared to states with much less incarceration. That’s why voters supported SQ 780 by a wide margin in 2016, and recent polling shows that support is even stronger today. We must continue to divert people away from incarceration and towards rehabilitation as we work to reduce our world-leading incarceration rate. The data shows that reform is working, and lawmakers can continue that progress by passing the strong reform proposals on the legislative agenda this year.