Researchers announced Tuesday they found “robust evidence” suggesting that property crime in California increased because thousands of prisoners were transferred out of state prisons into the laxer custody of county officials.
The Public Policy Institute of California looked at statewide crime data from the California Department of Justice and used it to claim that property crimes were seven to 12 percent higher in 2012 because an estimated 18,000 convicted criminals were free. They were set free during an initiative called realignment.
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. The legislation, known as realignment, has reduced the state’s incarceration by nine percent. The study found that realignment has had no effect on violent crime rates. With a 14.8 percent increase between 2011 and 2012, motor vehicle thefts saw the biggest spike.
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 County crime increased 10 percent in the same period.
In Newark, property crimes actually decreased from 2011 to 2012, as you can see in the chart embedded in this post. Motor vehicle theft increased.
The first wave of prisoners transferred during realignment were usually guilty of non-violent and non-sexual crimes. 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.