By Michael Rushford
California’s realignment program assures felons and potential felons that they will not go to state prison if they do not commit felonies classified as sex offenses, violent felonies, or felonies on a specific list unfortunately labeled “serious felonies”. The latter label is unfortunate because every crime properly designated a felony is serious.
One of the non-serious felonies is auto theft. It’s pretty serious to the victims, especially those of limited means who can’t afford comprehensive insurance and need their cars to get to work. Auto theft is a “regressive” crime. It falls harder on people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. But it is not on the “serious felony” list. So with a guarantee of no state prison by law, and with county jails overcrowded so only a fraction of sentences there are actually served, car thieves might get the impression that it is now open season on California’s cars.
The FBI released its preliminary data for the first half of 2012 recently. These data only include cities over 100,000 population, but nonetheless the 2012 v. 2011 comparison is interesting. Because realignment took effect on October 1, 2011, the comparative first-half data gives us a clear before-and-after comparison.
Auto theft increased by 1.7% nationally. In California, the increase was 12.8%. California’s greater increase works out to an additional 4,485 people’s cars stolen.
Michael Rushford is the President of the Sacramento, CA based Criminal Justice League Foundation