By Inga Barks
On Nov. 29, The Californian reported that crime is considerably higher in 2012 than it was in 2011 when state prison realignment -- ultimately resulting in the early release of some criminals -- began.
Also on Nov. 29, my house was burglarized.
It's very unsettling to walk into your home after a nice day with family to find that someone has not only violated your space but has taken your stuff (not much of it and nothing of value because I'm smarter than they were. But that didn't matter because they came in MY house and went through my closets and my children's rooms).
I took it very personally that for some reason they felt they needed to kick my bedroom door in. Gee whiz! What did I do?
I don't have to tell any victim of crime, petty or serious, how the physical reminders, such as that hole in a bedroom door, play on one's mind. I couldn't sleep for days, didn't want to leave the house, changed all the locks and codes, and as I type this very sentence, I can hear the banging as "Randy the door guy" replaces that cheap bedroom door with a good, heavy one.
According to the statistics reported in The Californian on the day the Barks were burglarized, we're definitely not alone.
In the last year in Kern County, burglaries such as mine have gone up 17 percent, robberies are up 19 percent and grand theft auto is up 22 percent. In the city of Bakersfield, it's even scarier as homicides are up 68 percent and grand theft is up 34 percent.
To what do law enforcers attribute the unusual increases in crime? Well, they were hesitant to say definitively in the article, but they more than alluded to state prison realignment.
I've wondered if our elected leaders give innocuous and unassociated names to laws they write so we don't get all worked up. Had they called it "The early release of that felon who stole your Corvette and crashed into a brick wall while drunken driving law," we might not have been so agreeable. "Realignment" sounds like something your chiropractor does!
Realignment is yet another example of how our representatives sacrifice our safety, rights and money rather than fight on our behalf.
For instance: The EPA sets unrealistic air quality standards. Why fight for citizens when representatives can go the easier route of taxing us and telling us what days we can light a fire? Or the state comes up with the stupidest education policies that waste teachers' time and put our children at the (near) bottom of just about every statistic in the country? Why fight for our children when they can just shrug their shoulders at parents and say, "It's the law?"
And why fight some federal judge when he says our prisons are overcrowded when they can just hand criminals back to local law enforcement and let THEM worry about it?
To his credit (and I rarely give him any), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was held in contempt for not complying with the federal mandate to spend $7 billion on new shiny facilities to house bad guys. And to their credit, 13 valley legislators including state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, fired off a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday asking him to more fairly fund the county jails that receive these thieves and vandals.
Currently, the lion's share of that funding goes to counties like San Francisco and Los Angeles, leaving valley communities with state prison inmates who overcrowd local jails, resulting in local criminals who commit "lesser" crimes being back on the street.
Being a crime victim is pretty frustrating, but imagine the frustration of Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood and the Bakersfield chief of police, as well as all of their officers, whose mission is to protect us.
They know that the crime for which someone is arrested probably won't be what they are charged with. And what they're charged with probably won't be what they plead to. What they plead to won't be what they're punished for, and their punishment under realignment will result in them being out on the streets to strike again and cops being practically on a first-name basis with "catch-and-release" criminals.
I can't claim that the burglar who broke into my house was released in the last year under realignment. But I can claim to be luckier than some. Last weekend in Northridge, four people, including a young mother, were allegedly murdered execution-style by a man who benefited from realignment. In fact, the news reports of crimes committed by those who are released and re-offend are staggering and too numerous to print in this column.
I hate to be partisan here, but...well...not ONE Republican voted for this law because they KNEW what would happen. Why Democrats voted for it? Well, you'll have to ask them.
In the meantime, our police will work overtime, people like me are becoming (more) well-armed in record numbers and "Randy the door guy" has job security.
-- Inga Barks, who hosts a talk show on KMJ AM 580, is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. You can email her at email@example.com. These are Barks' opinions, not necessarily The Californian's. Next week: Ric Llewellyn.