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In less than a decade, California has gone from being a standard-bearer for the ills of prison overcrowding to a national exemplar of reform, letting tens of thousands of people out of prison and reducing penalties for many crimes.
Important measures were passed by voters in 2014 and 2016, but only now is research starting to show the effects on crime in California. The new data is fueling a continuing debate, with national implications, about whether California should continue on the path of reform, or take a step back and get tougher, once again, on crime.
One recent study showed that an increase in crime in 2015 was not because of reforms. Another study determined that the reforms were not responsible for an increase in violent crime between 2014 and 2016 — that was from changes in reporting crime — but that they may have led to an increase in property crimes, specifically thefts from cars.
Adding to the body of evidence this week was a report on crime in 2017 released by the attorney general, Xavier Becerra. That report showed violent crime had increased 1.5 percent, while property crimes were down 2.1 percent.
The overall picture, according to supporters of criminal justice reform, is that crime is at historic lows in California. And they say that even if some categories have increased, such as thefts from automobiles, it hardly justifies a return to the days of mass incarceration.
“My main takeaway is that criminal justice reform is continuing to advance public safety,” said Lenore Anderson, the founder and executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, which has backed reforms.
Still, it is hardly a settled matter in California. On Monday, groups pushing to rollback reforms succeeded in getting enough signatures for a ballot initiative in 2020 that would reverse some of the reforms, such as expanding the types of crimes that could be charged as felonies.
This would represent a threat to one of the signature legacies of outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown, who wrote on Twitter on Monday: “Read the fine print. This flawed initiative would cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and endanger public safety by restricting parole and undermining inmate rehabilitation.”
The issue is a rare one that crosses party lines. While liberals tend to fall in line for reform, and Republicans are more likely to emphasize prison over rehabilitation, the lines are not clean.
One of the new ballot initiative’s top supporters is a Democrat in Sacramento — Jim Cooper, a former sheriff’s deputy turned assemblyman. And some Republicans, most prominently the former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been voices of reform.
“This has never been a left-versus-right issue,” said Ms. Anderson, who noted that in the past, “politicians of all stripes rode the bandwagon of increased incarceration.”
(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)
• In terms of acres burned, California’s fire season is off to its worst start in years. Through Monday morning, 196,092 acres had burned since Jan. 1 — an area more than double the average by July 9 of the previous five years. [The Mercury News]
• A company that runs 46 California shopping malls gives data from automated license plate readers to a surveillance contractor that sells the information to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. [Electronic Frontier Foundation]
• False: President Trump posted a story on Twitter that erroneously claims that Oakland residents protested against federal agents last August as they broke up a child sex trafficking ring. The tweet went to 53 million followers. [SFGate]
• Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood was evacuated by a brush fire that burned 25 acres. “It is just matter of mopping up now,” an L.A.F.D. spokesman said. [Los Angeles Times]
• Reunited: Reunions, as ordered by a court in California, broke out as the federal government returned the first wave of migrant children to their parents. There were widespread reports of glitches and delays, and some children failed to recognize their families. [The New York Times]
• “You trust folks; you give folks money, nine times out of 10 they’re not going to do any harm.” That was Stockton’s 27-year-old mayor, Michael Tubbs, whose initiatives include a $ 500 monthly check for the poor, and cash stipends for men likely to commit violent crimes. [A.P.]
• Southern California’s powerful Metropolitan Water District agreed for a second time to spend nearly $ 11 billion on a majority stake in the Delta tunnels project, which increases the amount of Northern California river water sent south. [The Sacramento Bee]
• From Tilapia to handbags: Mr. Trump raised the stakes in the trade war with China, as his advisers announced an additional $ 200 billion worth of goods that would be taxed. [The New York Times]
• Palo Alto-based Tesla will build a factory in Shanghai, its first outside the U.S., making it the first foreign-owned automaker in China. It said production would eventually reach 500,000 vehicles annually. [A.P.]
• Fact check: Mr. Trump said it’s “impossible” for American farmers to do business in Europe. In fact, the U.S. exported $ 11.5 billion in agricultural products to the European Union last year. [The New York Times]
• Cisco’s new chief executive, Chuck Robbins, wants to make computer networks simpler. His strategy is giving the Silicon Valley giant momentum. [The New York Times]
• And London Breed will make history today when she becomes the first black female mayor of San Francisco. Ms. Breed, 43, will be sworn in by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus will perform. Here’s a look at the inauguration. [San Francisco Chronicle]
And Finally …
Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal have Oakland in their bones.
Mr. Diggs, who won a Tony Award in 2016 for his spirited performance as Lafayette and Jefferson in “Hamilton,” and Mr. Casal, a spoken-word savant, were both born and bred in the gritty East Bay city.
The two men are now the writer-stars of “Blindspotting,” an Oakland-set comic drama that arrives in theaters on July 20.
Our reporter called it “a type of primal howl” — and an apt example of the defiant city’s emergences as an artistic hotbed.
California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.