Implemented in October 2011, Governor Jerry Brown’s Realignment law (AB109), has re-classified thousands of criminals as non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenders and prohibited them from receiving prison sentences for committing new, so-called low-level felonies or violating parole. Under Realignment, if a felon’s current and prior convictions are from this “non, non, non” category the sentencing options are: a short term in an overcrowded county jail, light supervision on probation, a treatment program, home detention with a GPS ankle bracelet or a combination of these. According to many Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, and District Attorneys, a lot of these so-called low level criminals are dangerous.
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Ramos said that the law has put more “people on the streets with a higher propensity to commit crimes.” (The Sacramento Bee, February 6). Among the “non, non, nons” are sex offenders not considered high-risk and criminals convicted of vehicular manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. (San Gabriel Valley Tribune, February 3).
Many of the criminals Realignment categorizes as “low risk” are committing new violent crimes. During 2012, the first full year since Realignment took effect, nine of California’s largest law enforcement agencies reported increases in murder, rape, robbery, and theft. In the city of Sacramento, violent crime went up by 5%. However, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department reported a 12% violent crime increase in its jurisdiction. In the cities of Folsom, Rancho Cordova, and Roseville, violent crime increased by at least 15%. This increase marks the end of five consecutive years of decline in overall annual crime. (The Sacramento Bee, February 6).
Bakersfield had experienced the same drop in crime rates from 2007 to 2011. But this changed dramatically in 2012. According to the Bakersfield Police Department, the crime rate last year was 556 reported crimes per 10,000 citizens. In 2011, the rate was 475. The number of murders nearly doubled, while rape increased by 23.4%, burglary by 15.6%, robbery by 23.4%, and auto theft by 35.7%. Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green blames the rise in crime on Realignment. (Bakersfield Now News, February 4).
In January, Forbes ranked Oakland, California, as America’s third most dangerous city in 2012, and number one for violent robberies. The FBI preliminary crime report for 2012 showed increases in all crimes including murder by 3.9%, rape by 35.6%, robbery by 37.6%, assault by 5.2%, burglary by 25.6%, theft by 32.2%, and motor vehicle theft by 13.9%.
Stockton, California, was ranked eighth, with the FBI report showing a 94.1% increase in homicide, a 33.3% increase in rape, a 27% increase in robbery, and a 23.1% increase in assault. While overall property crime was down 1%, burglaries were up 14.0% and motor vehicle thefts jumped by 41.5%.
Many Southern California cities have also seen major increases. Violent crime in Long Beach is up 3%, with a 15% increase in homicide, a 50% increase in rape, and double-digit increases in property crime. Violent crime in Oceanside rose by nearly 10%, in Lancaster the increase was over 17%, in Orange 19%, in Simi Valley 40%, in Escondido 33.5%, and in Santa Clarita over 47%.
San Diego experienced a 6.9% increase in crime in 2012 compared to 2011. Police Chief William Lansdowne attributed this to the downsizing of the SDPD and AB 109’s mandated movement of inmates to the county jail. The number of murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, and thefts have all risen sharply from the previous year. Nearly one quarter of the approximately 2,100 former prison inmates that the state has released to the county over the past year have committed new crimes. (Fox5, San Diego).
Talking about Realignment to a reporter earlier this month, Glendale Police Chief Ronald De Pompa said, “It will take time and a series of tragedies, I believe, before public opinion forces a change in public policy.” (San Gabriel Valley Tribune, February 3).
“In his January 24 State of the State address, Governor Brown did not acknowledge last year’s sharp increase in crime that turned thousands of Californians into victims. Out of the over 3,000 words in his speech, the Governor said absolutely nothing about the growing threat to public safety his Realignment law has caused,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford. “Our safety is clearly not a priority to him,” he added.