Police say realignment may be one cause of crime spike

May 17, 2013 11:44:41 PM PDT
There's been a huge spike in home burglaries and other property crimes all around the Bay Area. Police say it's largely because so many inmates are being released into our communities because of overcrowding at state prisons.

In the Bay Area, there's one property crime is committed every four minutes. Cellphone robberies are becoming an epidemic. Even on Muni. Auto thefts have skyrocketed. This security camera video may be old, but police say the MO is still the same and just as quick.

The most troubling of all is the big spike in home burglaries. Security camera captured a woman with an infant knocking on the door. When no one answered, two other burglars entered the backyard and began trying to pry open the sliding glass door.

San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer is president of the Peninsula Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association.

"All five of the Bay Area Peninsula counties, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda and Marin County contributed to a 23 percent jump in the last quarter alone in burglaries, Vic, that's huge," she said.

Community meetings are sprouting up all over the Bay Area.

One held recently in San Carlos by the police chief was packed with homeowners. Many in law enforcement believe "realignment" may be a likely cause.

In October 2011, the state tried to reduce overcrowding in state prisons.

Thousands of non-violent, low-risk felons were released to county jails; a move that ultimately resulted in many of them being released early.

On Thursday the state released its own report which showed a slight decrease in arrests among prisoners who've been released.

But the report only tracked them for the first six months of the program, which started a year and a half ago.

But no studies have been made on the impact realignment on local crime. There are however, a lot of troubling connections.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe says during the first three months after realignment started, property crimes began increasing.

County task forces are monitoring how realignment is going.

The state prisoners who were transferred to counties are supposed to be non-violent, low-risk. But Chief Manheimer says that's not true.

"I'm only speaking about San Mateo County now," she said. "There are a 50 to 75 percent that are higher risk offenders."

Antioch police Lt. Diane Aguinaga explains the discrepancy.

"They're getting released based on their last conviction offense," Aguinaga said. "And if you go back and look at a couple of convictions prior, there's always going to be some sort of violence. Or there's somebody that got caught dealing in drugs that had a weapon and they plead away the weapons charge."

Antioch police are tracking some 80 realignment prisoners who got early releases to their city.

They say some of them were responsible for murders and officer involved shootings. Some other examples of so-called low risk re-alignment transfers show one with carjacking, assault on an officer and a gun charge on his rap sheet. Another was previously arrested for robbery, carjacking, and also has a gun charge. And on one other person's record is attempted murder, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon.

San Mateo police routinely ask why realignment prisoners are committing property crimes.

"They've all realized that there's much less of a punishment and much lighter sentence for property crimes," Chief Manheimer said.

Like home burglaries.


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