By Mike Rushford
A recently released report from California’s Police Chiefs indicates that the 2015 increases in property and violent crime in the state’s largest cities is also occurring in smaller communities across the state. The report, released in late April by the California Police Chiefs Association, projects that California cities with populations less than 100,000 suffered a 15.25% increase in property crime and a 15.41% increase in violent crime in 2015, while smaller cities outside of California are projected to have had a 6.5% drop in property crime and only a 1.3% increase in violent crime.
In January the FBI released its Preliminary Uniform Crime Report, which counts crimes in cities with populations of 100,000 or more. For California the report showed a 12.9% increase in violent crime and a 9.2% increase in property crime from January through June 2015. The same report found that large cities outside of California had just a 1.7% increase in violent crime and a 4.2% drop in property crime. The chiefs report noted that the increase in property crime in those California cities is the largest year-over-year increase since at least 1960, while the increase in violent crime is the largest year-over-year increase since 1990.
The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which has been tracking crime rates in California since 1982, attributed the increases to the state legislature’s 2011 adoption of AB109, the Governor’s so called “Public Safety Realignment” law, and Proposition 47, an ACLU-sponsored initiative which spent $8 million (mostly out of state contributions), to convince voters that downgrading drug and theft felonies to misdemeanors would improve public safety.
“Realignment and Proposition 47 have left the vast majority of California’s criminals in communities which do not have the jail capacity to confine them or the resources to even keep track of them,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford. “As many in law enforcement predicted, this has caused major increases in both violent and property crimes and turned thousands of law-abiding Californians into victims,” he added.
A recent example involves the May 12 arrest of ex-convict Edgar Alexander Lobos for the forcible rape of a 31-year-old woman in a Los Angeles park 12 hours after his release from jail. Because of Realignment, he was released after serving just 1/3 of his sentence for a drug-related parole violation.
The Foundation also noted that it is probably not a coincidence that after felony drug possession was downgraded to a misdemeanor in 2014 by Proposition 47, communities across the state are reporting dramatic increases in fatal drug overdoses. Orange County recently reported 400 fatal overdoses last year, the most since 2005, and in April, the DEA reported 42 overdoses with 10 deaths in Sacramento just since late March.
Mike Rushford is the Executive Director of the Sacramento based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation