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Good News on California Crime Rates

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California property crimes per 100k population totaled 2,665.5 in 2013, a 3% drop from the 2012 figure although still above the rate before the realignment law went into effect.  Even better, the rate of violent crimes, less affected by that law, is down to a level not seen since 1967.  The California Attorney General released the annual Crime in California report September 26.

Comparison with national figures would be very interesting to help illuminate how much of this is local and how much reflects national trends, but the FBI still hasn't published the 2013 Crime in the United States.

6 Comments

Kent,

Am I correct in believing that the California prison population increased in 2013, and did so after a few years of declining or being stable as Realignment took hold?

You are correct. California's prison population bottomed out at 133,000 inmates in 2013, but has climbed to 135,400 so far this year. The increase is primarily due to a surge in convictions of violent and serious felonies by ex-cons who have priors. We call these second strikers. The prison population is projected to climb to 147,000 by 2019, but I believe the increase will be larger.

Realignment was also supposed to save the state money, but the corrections budget increased by $2 billion last year and is expected to climb by $3 billion in 2015.

The upshot is that Realignment leaves habitual felons in the community until they rape, injure or kill somebody and it is costing more money.

Too bad California failed to do needed sentencing and corrections reforms under prior Govs so that Realignment would not have been required by Plata. And if the state could get a sentencing commission, it would have a central place to collect and assess this data.

Also, I think Michael's data suggest Bill is wrong. He was concerned with the 2013 prison population (relative to 2012), and it seems you are saying Michael that the prison population went down from '12 to '13 (at the same time crime was also going down).

California's government leaders had been pondering large inmate releases a decade before the Plata decision and the 425 page Realignment law was passed without any committee hearings on a straight party line vote a week before the decision came down. Our state's liberal leadership had been yearning for sentencing alternatives since "Three Strikes" passed in 1994.

What I was saying Mr. Berman, is that our "smart sentencing" policy to reduce the prison population and save tax dollars has, after two years, increased the prison population and cost more money. With regard to crime rates; crime in all categories went up in California in 2012. While the FBI numbers our not out yet, if CA crime rates did drop a little in 2013, it is interesting that at the same time more criminals were being convicted of prison eligible felonies and being sent to prison. One may wonder if there is a correlation.

We have found that sentencing commissions, which are essentially unelected groups of political appointees, assume the very important responsibility of determining the consequences for crime while taking the people's elected representatives off the hook on an issue that has life and death outcomes for the public. A faceless, unaccountable committee is the last place that sentencing decisions should be made.

What we are learning about Realignment is that; the highly touted "evidence based" instruments governments use to assess the dangerousness of offenders don't appear to work with large, diverse populations; that there is little or no incentive for excellence among the government employees tasked to make these assessments and nobody gets blamed when they get it wrong; and that, sadly, rehabilitation alternatives do not work on most young male offenders assigned to a program rather than held away from the public.

When experiments like these fail, people die. If a drug company was killing and injuring as many people as "smart sentencing" efforts like Realignment its managers would be prosecuted as criminals and the company sued out of existence.

Michael, is there any breakdown on the effects of re-alignment by county or municipality? For the record, I live in Long Beach....

Matthew: The full 2013 FBI numbers have not been released to date, but the FBI preliminary report which gives numbers for large cities over the first six months of each year shows that overall crime in Long Beach wend down in 2013 compared to 2012. The exceptions were Homicide and residential burglaries which increased. The report a year earlier comparing 2011 to 2012 showed significant increases in every category of crime except aggravated assault. 2012 was the first full year of Realignment, and many law enforcement agencies were caught off guard by the number of offenders dumped into their communities. Long Beach Chief Jim McDonnell was one of the Chiefs who quickly adjusted policing to address this problem, which seems to have worked.

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