BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Crime rates continue to creep up in the wake of realignment.
Prison realignment completed its first year in October, so officials have no hard evidence and are still hesitant to definitively say it is the cause of the increase. But they readily cite that realignment is the only factor that's changed.
"The only thing that's changed is realignment," said Kern County Undersheriff RoseMary Wahl. "Inmates that should be in prison are out under realignment."
Realignment, also known as AB109, is a state program aimed at alleviating prison overcrowding by sentencing inmates convicted of non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual crimes to county supervision rather than state prison. In Kern County, 1,741 state prisoners have qualified for post-release community supervision by the county, nearly twice as many as the state's original estimate.
Crime rates from the Kern County Sheriff's Office and the Bakersfield Police Department presented at Wednesday's Community Corrections Partnership meeting show an increase between 2010 and 2012, as well as shifts since the last time the agencies reported crime statistics in September.
At September's Community Corrections Partnership meeting, the sheriff's department reported a 22 percent increase in burglaries, a 16 percent increase in grand theft auto and a 15.5 percent increase in robberies. The numbers compare the period of October 2010 to June 30, 2011 against that same period in 2011-12.
At Wednesday's meeting, the sheriff's department reported crime rates comparing calendar year 2010 to 2011 to the year between October 2011 and October 2012. For areas of Kern County under the sheriff's jurisdiction, crime rose 9.3 percent during that time frame. Robberies rose 19.1 percent, burglaries 17.2 percent and grand theft of autos 21.6 percent.
But some crimes are down year over year. Homicide dropped 8.7 percent, rape 9.4 percent and vandalism 6.2 percent.
"I think when you look at it you'll see a lot of property crime increased, robberies increased, grand theft autos increased since realignment," Wahl said.
In the BPD jurisdiction, crime is also up year over year, but almost identical to the last reports from September, said Chief Greg Williamson. BPD's statistics compared crimes from January 2011 to Nov. 17, 2011, to crimes from January 2012 to Nov. 17, 2012.
Overall, crime increased 19 percent. Robberies increased 31 percent, burglaries 13 percent and grand theft auto 34 percent. The only category that was down for BPD was aggravated assault, which dropped 3 percent.
BPD has also seen a substantial increase in homicide and rape. Homicides are up 72 percent, and rape 68 percent. But those numbers are anomalies, Williamson said.
There was an usually low number of homicides in 2011, making the year-to-year percentage look drastic, he said. In 2010, there were 32 homicides. But in 2011, there were only 18. And now in 2012, there have been 31.
It's harder to say why the percentage of rape has increased so much, Williamson said.
"In regard to the rapes, from a law enforcement standpoint, the victim generally knows the perpetrator. We don't have a serial rapist," he said. "It's difficult to determine why there's a spike."
For other crimes, Williamson said all anecdotal evidence points to realignment as the cause. In the six years before realignment, Bakersfield's crime rates were decreasing, he said. But the police department hasn't compiled definitive statistics to show that realignment probationers are committing these crimes.
"We're policing in the same fashion as the four to five years when crime was going down," Williamson said. "When you put everything together, it points to that, but we don't have the statistics."