Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 8:48 pm | Fair 50º


Report: California’s Realignment Leads to Increase in Auto Theft But Not in Violent Crime

In its first years, the policy shift has reduced the state's reliance on jails and prisons

California's historic public safety realignment has substantially reduced the state's reliance on incarceration, and there is no evidence it has affected rates of violent crime. However, it has led to an increase in auto theft of 17 percent — slightly more than 70 per 100,000 residents. These are the key findings of a report released Tuesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The report confirms the findings of an earlier PPIC study that focused on the first year of realignment, which shifted the responsibility for many lower-level offenders from the state prisons to county jail and probation systems. The PPIC analysis found that effects identified in the first year of realignment have continued.

An analysis of FBI crime data shows that after increasing slightly in 2012 — the first year of realignment — California's violent crime rate rates dropped in 2013 by 6.4 percent, to a 46-year low of 396 per 100,000 residents. This was roughly in line with declines in states whose crime trends were similar to those of California before realignment.

Property crime in California increased noticeably in 2012 — by 7.8 percent — and the auto theft rate increased significantly. Property crime dropped in 2013 — by 3.8 percent, to 2,665 per 100,000 residents — but the decline was no greater than that of comparable states. In other words, the "auto theft gap" that emerged between California and comparable states in realignment's first year has held steady.

"Despite concerns about the impact of realignment on crime rates, our analysis suggests that reducing California's reliance on incarceration has had a very limited impact on crime," said Magnus Lofstrom, PPIC senior fellow, who co-authored the report with Steven Raphael, PPIC adjunct fellow and professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley.

The PPIC report, "Realignment, Incarceration, and Crime Trends in California," also analyzes changes in the prison and jail populations and finds realignment's impact was concentrated in the first year. The prison population dropped by 27,000 in the first year of reform, and county jail populations increased by only 9,000, which means about 18,000 former inmates were on the streets. Both the prison and jail populations have increased only slightly since 2012. As a result, the number of offenders on the street did not increase after the first year.

The authors say it will be important to track the effect of Proposition 47, which will further reduce the state's reliance on incarceration. The 2014 state initiative converted a number of drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. In the first four months after Proposition 47 took effect, the prison population dropped by almost 5,000, to about 131,200 (or 340 inmates per 100,000 residents). This — along with the increased use of in-state contract beds in both public and private facilities and the opening of a new health care facility in Stockton — has reduced prison overcrowding and brought the prison population under the target set by a federal court order.

The PPIC report notes that incarceration prevents some crime, but that when incarceration rates are high, its effect is very limited. The state would benefit from seeking alternative crime prevention strategies that are less costly — such as early childhood programs, targeted interventions for high-risk youth, increased policing and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Click here to view the complete report.


Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.