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Report: More Ex-Cons on Streets Mean More Property Crimes

Motor vehicle thefts increased sixfold in Piedmont from 2011 to 2012.

Patch file photo
Patch file photo

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.

In Piedmont, property crimes in general climbed from 295 incidents in 2011 to 333 in 2012, according to FBI statistics. 

And while the numbers are relatively small, motor vehicle thefts in Piedmont rose sharply, from 8 in 2011 to 48 in 2012, a sixfold increase. 

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.

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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John Bilorusky December 14, 2013 at 12:06 PM
The full report is much more complex than the oversimplified headline. The headline might make people inclined to oppose the release of people convicted of non-violent crimes. And, the headline might promote more hand-wringing and fear than the research cited suggests. Most significantly, the cited report concludes, "Taken together, our findings indicate that the state has not been receiving a very good return on its prison incarceration investments." Also, the basis for "correlating" increased car theft with early release of some prisoners has been done thoughtfully and by some very complex reasoning processes, but as is the case with all research based on statistical correlation, there could quite likely be other factors not studied that are contributing to the increase in car theft. As a citizen and a car owner, I'm much more concerned with the amount of wasted money spent on incarceration of increasingly large numbers of people--much more than the vast majority of countries in the world, rather than on education, social services, and rehabilitation. Indeed, the report cited strongly questions the wisdom of having such an overpopulated prison system. What concerns me also is that articles such as this one appeal to our fears those "other people" rather than encouraging us to use our more pro-active and creative emotions of empathy and responsibility. Indeed, especially during the holiday season, those latter emotions should be the ones that we call on to solve our problems and worries rather than playing off of fears, which is admittedly easy to do.
Walt Stawicki December 22, 2013 at 07:26 PM
A like for John yellow russia, I wish I could find the picture and figures that passed by this week. It asked which would we vote for. A. was the annual prison budget om prisons, B. was 19,000 educations for the men presently in prisons. Wheres my ballot box? as for crime up.. slightly. 8 to 48 is small enough that the 6fold really is nothing but fearmongering with statistics. Lots of that floating around in this issue.
Birdie Friend December 23, 2013 at 01:21 AM
The daily toll of murders of prisoners by guards and medical neglect and maiming due to unconstitutional overcrowding are far worse than a slight uptick in property crimes. These are not animals who are being stuffed into prison cells like livestock, they are real human beings with families of who love them.
Deanna Brownen December 23, 2013 at 10:22 AM
The main contributor to crime is poverty.....When you set these guys free after being locked up for many years and give them $200 cash and nothing more, you are setting them up for failure, its common sense. Imagine yourself with nothing but the clothes on your back and $200 cash, how long would you last? If you were homeless and felt a little scared sleeping on the streets so you used some of your cash to purchase a pocket knife both for protection and basic survival you will be thrown back in jail for at least 6 months. Its so sad that no one mentions the parole system and how harsh it is. Then they want to hire more cops? Really? So they can beat and kill more people? Why are police brutality statistics not considered here? I mean a lot of people like myself do not report property crime to the police because I'm too scared to call them to my house that they might shoot someone in my neighborhood. The statistics do not specifically say how many parolees are re-offending just that more have been released and property crime rose, and again poverty and unemployment are direct contributors to property crime, its common sense people. Too many variables to say realignment is the problem
Nina Courtney December 23, 2013 at 11:10 AM
What the public doesn't realize is that these people were coming home anyway because they are low level offenders and their release date was just moved up. So saying crime has risen is balderdash. Articles like this are pure fear mongering. If the crime level is going to decrease then cdcr has to put re entry programs into place, the legislature must put sentence restructure in to place and we have to stop incarcerating our mentally ill and addicted and treat them, we have to stop incarcerating our homeless and shelter them, we have to stop incarcerating our poor and employ them.
Edith Murcer December 23, 2013 at 03:53 PM
It's rather simple, it you behave yourself the cops will treat you fairly. When you call the cops the F word you get the consequence. But yes it would help if there was jobs in Obamanomics to help the poor.
Moe Ramsey December 23, 2013 at 06:26 PM
Then stop making it practically impossible for them to get a job when they get out!
Kim Miller January 04, 2014 at 08:44 PM
Have these ex cons become Obamacare phone operators - they will love your social security number

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