Realignment drives property-crime increase, report says

Santa Clara County has highest crime jump in state

Property crimes across the state rose 7.6 percent this year, and Santa Clara County was hit the worst, with an increase of 20.4 percent, according to a recent report that pins the rise on California's controversial prisoner-realignment policy.

The report by the Public Policy Institute of California states that the policy, which aims to reduce the state's overcrowded prisons, didn't appear to change rates in violent crime like murder or rape. But its effect on auto theft rates was particularly pronounced, with an increase of 14.8 percent or 24,000 more auto thefts per year.

Realignment went into effect on Oct. 1, 2011, in response to a federal court order for California to reduce overcrowding in its prisons. It shifts responsibility for nonviolent criminals from the state to local level by sending some prisoners to jail instead of prison. It quickly reduced the state's prison population by 27,000, but two thirds -- about 18,000 -- who would have been in prison or jail before the shift are now on the streets, according to the report.

Crime rates varied widely across the state, but the 10 largest counties generally saw greater increases in crime than in the state overall, according to the report. Palo Alto police statistics show car theft rose 26.3 percent, larceny increased 11.8 percent and burglary rose 15.6 percent between 2011 and 2012.

Counties with high incarceration rates experienced higher crime after more prisoners were released back to their counties through realignment, the report states. The increase is higher than in states where crime trends were similar to California's before realignment. Nationwide, property crime decreased slightly.

The rising crime numbers related to prisoner early releases are concerning, the authors wrote. California still has 8,000 state prison inmates before it reaches its court-mandated limit of 110,000. If the state further reduces the prison population rather than transferring prisoners to other facilities, the effect on property crime could be 7 to 12 percent greater per released offender, the authors noted.

Violent crime, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, did rise 3.4 percent during the same time period, but the increases appear to be part of a broader trend. They were also experienced other states, according to the report.

Robberies increased modestly, to about 6 per year per 100,000 residents, which do appear related to realignment.

Magnus Lofstrom, an Institute research fellow and report co-author, took a longer view.

"Realignment has brought enormous change to California, and it appears to have affected auto thefts, in particular. Nonetheless, despite recent increases, rates of property and violent crime remain at historically low levels in the state, substantially lower than they were a decade ago," he said.

From a cost-versus-benefit perspective, additional prison time does not necessarily pay, the authors said.

Each prison year served by a realigned offender prevents 1.2 auto thefts, the authors estimate. An auto theft costs on average $9,533, according to a RAND Corporation study. One prison year would prevent $11,783 in auto-theft-related costs. But the annual cost of incarcerating a prisoner for one year is $51,889 in California, according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office.

Alternatives could improve public safety at lower cost. Spending an additional dollar on policing would prevent more crimes -- 3.5 to 7 times as many -- than spending it on prison incarceration, the study found.


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Posted by criminals everywhere
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Just FYI, a study that came out this year:
"Study Shows Zoning for Residential Land-Use Leads to Decrease in Crime Rates in LA"
Web Link

Web Link

Realignment aligns perfectly with the new urbanization...

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm

> Alternatives could improve public safety at lower cost. Spending an
> additional dollar on policing would prevent more crimes -- 3.5 to 7
> times as many -- than spending it on prison incarceration, the study found.

Hmm .. just how are these dollars to be spent? Putting more officers on the street might have a deterrent effect, but sooner of later more officers means more arrests, and ultimately more incarceration. It’s really hard to believe that any study of this large problem would not come to some variation of this theme.

If those dollars were spent on technology—

Predictive Policing - Richland, WA Police Department and BAIR Analytics:
Web Link

such as predictive analysis, then perhaps the number of officers needed would be reduced (meaning a big savings in salaries, pensions) and there might even be a real deterrent effect that might, over time, see a reduction in arrests.

At the moment, this is all cutting edge, and it will take time to get this idea infused into the law enforcement community, and to see meaningful results.

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Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 19, 2013 at 12:39 pm

How many times do cities have to learn the same lesson. When you let criminals out of jail early the crime rate goes up. They have few skills and can't get good jobs (even if they wanted them) and go right back to burglary, auto theft, rape, and all the other terrible crimes that occur with these people.
Let's build tent cities in the central valley like Phoenix did to keep the criminal in jail until their sentences are done. Likewise, get rid of the Community Programs to deal with teenagers that just let them out of jail if the promise to not commit future crimes. Another rerun of failed policies. And Obama's decision to order Eric Holder to direct federal prosecuters to minimize full prosecution of drug offenders so they will spend less time in prison. A page out of Obama's Community Organizer Manual no doubt.
Criminals belong in jail, and that is the only way to decrease crime in cities. Let the City Council stop worry about spending all their time trying to maximize the number of apartments, high rise buildings, and condos and worry about crime in Palo Alto.

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Posted by Sheldon Kay
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 20, 2013 at 9:07 am

When one looks dollars to determine a course of action, it is just plain stupid. For example when you look at the $ value of a stolen car you don't consider the mental anguish, time spent getting a new car, time spent dealing with insurance companies and inconveniences caused by the theft.

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Posted by DrBCayenneBird
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Thank you for thoughtful editorial. The crime rates in California are below historic lows. The crime statistics released in the FBI uniform crime reports run several years behind and are full of variables. We know that poverty is one of key causes of crime and that variable should still be figured into the mix. The LA Times had a great editorial about all the political puffery surrounding the court orders to release offenders.

"The Truth About Early Release" , Sept. 1, 2013 Web Link The normal monthly release rate by people who simply finished their sentences or were wrongfully arrested is about 9,000 per month and has been for years. More evidence that crime is falling.

The death of Andrew Tisnado at Sierra Conservation Center last week was in part caused by overcrowding and the inhumane, cruel and unusual existences that the prisoners are barely surviving in, which Jerry Brown and the lawmakers could care less about. His crime? Owning ammo (no gun, just ammo) which mysteriously showed up in his car. This caused the well-loved father of two little babies and husband to be taken away on a four year sentence.

And Jerry Brown keeps trying to convince everyone that only the most violent people are in prison. There were 32 men crammed into a dormitory cell that was designed to hold 16 people. The prisoners say that they locked the door at night and left the inmates with no supervision since they were lower level prisoners. Outrageous! The State has an obligation to provide safe housing. The decision to delay releases is a very bad one. Brown just wants more time to build hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new prisons and jails. He needs to be indicted for his role in these preventable deaths.

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Posted by Moe Ramsey
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Gotta say, if you make it hard for ex-cons to get a job, they'll turn back to crime.
Just saying, if you want clear streets, stop impeding their ability to work legit.
Because, it's kinda like the state gets money by having a revolving door in the prisons. Keep people poor and stupid, and the prisons will fill up before the school house will.

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Posted by BettyG
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2013 at 11:53 pm

The Coleman/Plata case has now been in court for 23 years and recently the judges ruled that measured needed to be taken to reduce the overcrowding well its now been a couple of years and they are still not being implemented. Times are very difficult currently, IHHS has reduce the hours of care givers, Foods stamps were reduced, WIC has been reduced and threaten with ending that particular program, the unemployment rate is up due to seasonal hires, rents are up because so many lost their homes they have now become renters put all these together and your crime rates will climb lets stop blaming everything so that the judges orders don't have to be follow. We need change and now lets stop the warehousing of humans industry.

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Dec 24, 2013 at 8:39 pm

There is a simple way to relieve prison overcrowding and reduce the crime rate.

Revisit "3 strikes and you're out" Change the "out" to "put to death"

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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