Crime is up across the state in the wake of Supreme Court-mandated prison realignment that sent many state inmates back to local jails or set them free early, a December 9 report from the Public Policy Institute of California says. But while some connections can be made between the prisoner release and rising crime, the study's authors warn that those ties only link early release to a handful of types of crime.
Overall, San Diego County saw an 8.8 percent increase in violent crimes reported and a 7.4 percent increase in property crimes between 2011 and 2012. The increase in violent crimes was more than double the statewide average; however, property-crime reporting was on par with the state's.
Before making a conclusion as to whether to blame the uptick on realignment, researchers compared California numbers to several other states with similar historical trends in crime, including Florida, Maryland, Montana, New York, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.
As it turned out, violent crime numbers were still fairly comparable to other states in the control group and throughout the West in general. Where the study authors did find a connection to crime rates and the early release of prisoners was in property crime.
Auto theft, up 14 percent, was named as being most significantly affected by realignment. Researchers say that an additional 65 car thefts per 100,000 residents were likely to occur each year due to the effects of reducing overcrowding in the state-prison system.
Still, says study co-author Magnus Lofstrom, "Despite recent increases, rates of property and violent crime remain at historically low levels in the state — substantially lower than they were a decade ago."
So far, about 27,000 state-prison inmates have been moved out of the system, with 9000 landing in local jails and another 18,000 released on probation. California still has to reduce its prison population by another 8000 to bring facilities down to their legally mandated maximum capacity of 110,000.