But he also has planks in his platform that would make even the most housing-first progressive rejoice. He has called for an expansion of permanent supportive housing and rental protections and says he would petition the federal government to triple the number of Section 8 vouchers that help struggling families afford rent. He is, in short, promising the world to both sides.
His plans for public safety are just as ambitious. The story of crime in Los Angeles isn’t all that much different from most major American cities. Last year, homicides in the city hit a 15-year high, but those who say violent crime has never been worse are most likely forgetting the 1990s.
His plan to reduce crime is what you’d imagine from a politician who played up an endorsement from Bratton. He wants 1,500 more cops on the streets and enforced penalties for property crimes like breaking into cars. He also says he wants to apply pressure on the city attorney to prosecute misdemeanors more regularly.
In a lengthy interview with the editorial board of The Los Angeles Times, Caruso said, “We have laws now that aren’t being enforced,” referring to low-level crimes that would be taken more seriously under a broken-windows regime. “And we’re paying a deep price for it. Now, consequences should be fair. We should have a whole bunch of things in place that allows people to rehabilitate themselves. You know, I don’t believe in criminalizing everything. But we certainly have to get a handle on the behavior in this city. People are scared and they don’t feel listened to.”
In theory, there is a lot to admire about Caruso’s big solutions for big problems approach. It might make sense, for example, to shoot for 30,000 shelter beds and an increase of affordable housing, because even if you end somewhere significantly short of those goals, you’re still doing better than the status quo. But the problem with the clean-up-our-cities Democrat isn’t that the message is wrong — it has proved to be popular throughout the country — but, rather, that it lives in a fantasy world where ambitions ignore both the legislative and infrastructural realities on the ground.
Caruso is hardly the first politician to make big promises, but his seem especially unrealistic. If he wants 1,500 more police officers on the streets, for example, he must first contend with the fact that the L.A.P.D. is currently short 325 officers with no real clear solutions on how to fill those existing spots. Police academies in the city are significantly under-enrolled.
Similarly, his plans for the homeless require a fleet of civic and nonprofit workers that don’t exist yet. The current mobilization against homelessness across the state has seen dire staffing shortages, something I wrote about back in March. The shortfall reflects a very sobering reality: It’s hard to find a lot of people who want to deal with the emotional and physical labor of working with unhoused people. Caruso cannot just snap his fingers and find these workers, some of whom would need to be highly trained professionals to work in his “Department of Mental Health and Addiction Treatment.”