Crime spiked last year; local officials blame prison realignment

Crime spiked last year; local officials blame prison realignment
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Statistics released by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office show that reported crimes increased in 2012. What they found is reason enough to keep both personal vigilance and a neighborly eye out for anything suspicious.

Crime was up in almost every category last year, with the highest spike in grand theft auto.

The total number of reported crimes for 2011 was around 8,500. For 2012, the total number rose to 10,270, resulting in a nearly 21 percent jump.

Oildale showed the biggest leap in crime, but authorities point out that the numbers are counter-intuitive and do not actually mean Oildale is any worse than other areas.

"Crime rate is a funny thing. If you take a certain area of town and saturate it with police officers for three months, the crime rates will actually go up in that area, because those officers are going to find crimes that otherwise would have gone unreported," said Sheriff Donny Youngblood on Tuesday.

Officials say a likely reason for the climbing crime count is prison realignment.

“When you have that many people who should be in custody and aren't, it just goes without saying that we're going to have a higher crime rate than we did in 2011," said Youngblood.

For Kern County, 44 percent of the people released from prison have recommitted crimes. Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green has seen the effects of realignment.

"It's really the proverbial revolving door," said Green.

A revolving door because the system ushers criminals into prison and, after a fraction of their sentence time, ushers them out just as fast because there is no room for them in prison.

"What I can say is that it's not a coincidence that we see this uptick in crime in the county after realignment's taken effect. Other people say it's too early to tell, but I don't really believe in coincidences," said Green.

Her office’s workload can probably testify to that as well.

"We're busting at the seams trying to keep up. It's an extra 1,000 cases in a year. That is very significant. It's an increase from approximately 7,000 in 2011 to 8,000 in 2012, and that is significant," said Green.

According to Green, out of every county in California, Kern County gets the least money per capita for each inmate from the state; the hope is that more money will come in later this year with the governor’s new budget.