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Property Crime Rise Linked to State Prison Releases, Study Says

Berkeley, like California as whole, saw a rise in property crimes following the state's prison early-release program.

Berkeley, like the state as whole, saw a rise in property crimes following the state's prison early-release program.
Berkeley, like the state as whole, saw a rise in property crimes following the state's prison early-release program.

By Alex Gronke

Researchers have found “robust evidence” suggesting that property crime in California increased because thousands of prisoners who had been locked in state prisons transferred to the laxer custody of county officials in a process known as realignment.

Looking at statewide crime data from the California Department of Justice, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found that property crimes were 7 to 12 percent higher in 2012 because an estimated 18,000 convicted criminals who would have otherwise been behind bars were free. With a 14.8 percent increase between 2011 and 2012, motor vehicle thefts saw the biggest spike.

The data for Berkeley shows the city experienced a similar upswing. (See attached chart.) Serious property crimes in Berkeley – burglary, larceny-theft, stolen autos and arson – rose 12.5 percent to 5,696 in 2012 from 5,064 in 2011, according to FBI statistics.

In order to abide by a federal mandate to ease overcrowding in the state prison system, the State Legislature passed a law in 2011 that sent more parolees and non-violent criminals to county custody. Known as realignment, the legislation has reduced the state’s incarceration by 9 percent.

The study found that realignment has had no effect on violent crime rates in general, though Berkeley has seen a striking spike in robberies this year.

The rise in property crime did not hit all parts of the state equally. Alameda County had an increase of 17.1 percent in property crime during the time studied in the report. Contra Costa had an increase of 10 percent in the same period.

The first wave of prisoners transferred during realignment were usually guilty of non-violent and non-sexual crimes. But 8,000 inmates above the 110,000 limit mandated by federal order remain in California prisons. The report concludes that were these more serious criminals allowed to go free, the rise in property crime would be even larger.

Read the full report from the PPIC here.

Read about realignment here.

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Jess December 11, 2013 at 10:27 PM
This is a disgrace to the justice system. At www.Southland-Law.com we see the injustices committed against the people incarcerated in California's Prisons. To delay the minimal necessities is to say the State cannot operate it's own prison system. We have drafted many writs and law suits and can say with confidence that the state has a long way to go. This decision just delayed the necessary changes.

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