Auto thefts, property crime up after early inmate release, study finds


Researchers with the Public Policy Institute of California say that while violent crimes did not increase, auto theft and other types of property crimes went up significantly.

"The focus of realignment on non-serious, non-sexual, non-violent offenders tends to translate into not much of an impact on violent crime rates. And we do see, however, an increase in auto theft," said Steven Raphael with the Public Policy Institute of California.

About 18,000 offenders who previously would be behind bars are currently free because of early releases or jail diversion programs. Gov. Jerry Brown made the changes in 2011 to reduce prison overcrowding.

The report says after realignment, property crimes went up 1.8 percent in Los Angeles County, 9.6 percent in Orange County, 10.4 percent in San Bernardino County, and 7.5 percent in Riverside County.

A number of law enforcement agencies expected this would happen.

"This was thrust upon us pretty quickly. There was no input from local law enforcement at all," said Torrance Police Chief John J. Neu.

Neu says his city has seen an increase in property crime of 12 percent this year.

"Is there a direct correlation to realignment? Absolutely. And the reason that I say that is there are more criminals now that are on the streets. They are afforded more opportunities to commit these crimes and that's exactly what we are seeing," said Neu.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation criticized the study, saying it was done with only a year of data and it's too early to tell what the long-term effects will be.

"Under realignment, the state is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in local rehabilitation and crime-prevention programs to continue to improve public safety in our communities. The impact of these investments will be measured over years, not months," the department said in a statement.

To comply with a federal mandate, California might have to reduce its prison population again. The report says that could increase property crimes about 7 to 12 percent in the next several years.

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