News

Prison program shift 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.

Comments

Posted by Hmm, a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm

You can probably double the numbers for all the crime that goes on reported.

Reinstate the Death penalty would free up a lot of beds.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Slater
on Dec 19, 2013 at 5:48 pm

"Magnus Lofstrom, an Institute research fellow and report co-author, took a longer view."
His view appears to be that higher crime rates in our community's are a risk we should accept. Yes,it might cost more to incarcerate a prisoner than the personal cost of the crime, but isn't that the point of the Criminal Justice System; do the crime, do the time? Behind this catch and release policy is the belief that some crimes aren't worth the cost of punishment. What this policy fails to take into consideration is that the crimes are local and personal to the victim. This article also fails to mention and include the costs incurred by the police department's in investigating & catching the criminals. There is more to the crime than the monetary loss of a "thing" and the feeling of general community safety is one of the first casualties.
Finally, if our servicemen and women can live in tents and serve in the heat and cold of the desert, why can't the prisoner's? At $52.000/yr per prisoner,we could put them all on cruise ships for their sentence, and never have to see them for a very long time


Posted by Great Auntie, a resident of Slater
on Dec 19, 2013 at 6:11 pm

I agree with Bob's statement, "Finally, if our servicemen and women can live in tents and serve in the heat and cold of the desert, why can't the prisoners?"

The inmates should be doing hard labor, that would discourage them from wanting to be in or go back to jail/prison. Right now, they aren't seeing many repercussions. Society is in a lose/lose situation - we lose our faith in the system as well as the material and physical losses. They see a roof over their heads, medical care, food and probably an early release. Are there hardships on the inside of prison? Sure, but not enough. Right now they are laughing at us fools.


Posted by Mother Mary, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 19, 2013 at 7:11 pm

1. One report does not show causality. There is no evidence that re-alignment caused property theft to increase.

2. Over 70% of people who go to prison and do their time, re-offend when they get out. Many of them enter prison as non-violent people and come out quite violent. Prison does not teach people impulse control or how to make good life decisions. People do not learn how to play well with others in prison.

3. When people get out of prison they are plopped right back in the same environment they started from. In addition, they now have a felony on their record and little chance of getting work.

If we want a safe and civil society we need to temper our animal instinct for revenge and help these people get back on their feet!


Posted by Stat, a resident of Jackson Park
on Dec 20, 2013 at 5:31 am

Hmmm, Do you know how many people are even pon death row? From your statement that you think it'll free up "a lot of beds", its clear you don't have a full grasp of the situation. So tell us, how many beds = a lot in your opinion?


Posted by Bob, a resident of Slater
on Dec 20, 2013 at 8:23 am

Dear Mother Mary, did you not read the article?

"The rising crime numbers related to prisoner early releases are concerning, the authors wrote." "Robberies increased modestly, to about 6 per year per 100,000 residents, which do appear related to realignment." ""Realignment has brought enormous change to California, and it appears to have affected auto thefts, in particular."
For the 70% you mention who, after leaving prison commit repeat offenses, perhaps they should be embraced by "understanding" folk like yourself, and welcomed into your home where you can fix them a nice cup of tea and fluff their pillow at night so they will feel loved and want to become decent and productive members of our society.
However, for those who feel as I, if they don't get the message the first time, send them back, and while they're there they won't be robbing, rapeing or killing members of our community.


Posted by Amelia, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2013 at 8:35 am

1/4 of our prison popularion is made up of people who got caught with drugs. They weren't robbing anyone or killing anyone. Stop putting these people behind bars so we can keep the focus on folks who harming others and keep our numbers down.


Posted by JW, a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Don't believe everything you read. It's time to stop the madness and making excuses on prison overcrowding. The federal judges need to take over and let prisoner out of jail that's severing all this time for petty ordeals. The state need to spend money wisely and not billions of dollars on prisons when there no jobs in the state of California. The Governor need to change sentencing to 65% of their time. Then it would be more of a revolving door to prevent overcrowding.


Posted by Hmm, a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 20, 2013 at 2:25 pm

@stat,

Yes i do and it's one too many.


Posted by Malibu1369, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Malibu1369 is a registered user.

@Hmm, so how many people do you want to kill? I hate stop sign runners. I bet you have run a stop sign in the past! Can I get CA to give you the death penalty? State murder doesn't decrease crime but it does take a human life. That is unethical and a sad excuse for society. Seems to work for North Korea. Just kill anyone you don't trust. Do you have anyone that doesn't trust you?

@Bob, Seriously? You compare people incarcerated for whatever to people who volunteered to live in tents and get paid for it, then get free education and medical for life?

@Great Auntie... No study in the last 400 years has shown that torturing inmates with hard labor, chain gangs, isolation, etc reduces recidivism. What has been proven is that rehabilitation does reduce recidivism, but you, like most people, just don't understand that. For that reason we will still have ghettos, high property crime rates etc. Instead of just off the cuff comments, maybe you should do some research. It will do your brain good.

Finally @Bob, you need to do the numbers. We cannot afford to reduce the crime rate by incarceration. It has never worked and never will. And, I cannot afford it. On the other hand, if you want to write California a check for the nearly 10 Billion dollars our prison system costs per year be my guest, I won't!


Posted by Robert, a resident of Slater
on Dec 23, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Robert is a registered user.

Hello Malibu1369 If I agreed with what you wrote, then we would both be wrong. If our military can exist in tents in the desert, so can prisoners, and at a lot less cost to the taxpayers than traditional prisons, which should make us both happier.
"State murder doesn't decrease crime but it does take a human life." Wrong on both counts. Anyone in California who gets the death penalty, has done something or somethings very egregious to society to the extent they are considered unhuman and the recidivism rate of those who actually have their sentence carried out is zero.

Amelia "1/4 of our prison popularion is made up of people who got caught with drugs. They weren't robbing anyone or killing anyone." By and large, people who do drugs don't have jobs, and if they do, not for long. So where do they get the money to buy drugs? They rob, steal and burgle, and yes, sometimes they even kill.
We are taught society's rules early on and some make the conscious decision to break them. As little kids they get a time out and as big kids they get time in.


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