Budget plan will unleash crime wave in communities

Posted on June 25, 2009. Filed under: California State Budget, Crime, Crime Victims |

Published online on Tuesday, Jun. 23, 2009

By Jerry P. Dyer

The economic downturn, increased unemployment rates and a rise in alcohol consumption and drug use have created an irritable and unpredictable society that has the potential to negatively influence crime rates.

All of this, coupled with the increased number of parolees on our streets in Fresno due to the early release of inmates, will make it more difficult to control crime in Fresno and throughout the state. Given Fresno’s demographics, our challenges may even be greater than other cities.

Adding to the frustration for law enforcement in Fresno and the entire state is the budget mess in Sacramento. We will all be less safe if the current budget that’s being considered in Sacramento is adopted.

The proposed budget includes some unprecedented provisions that will place our communities directly at risk.

First, the budget proposes reductions in the Department of Corrections that will involve the wholesale accelerated release of at least 20,000 felons into our communities.

Please understand that in California, felons re-offend 70% of the time over a three-year period. In addition, most law enforcement studies have shown that by the time someone is arrested, they have committed approximately 13 crimes. Finally, in other states where felons have been released early, 20% of the crimes they committed were violent ones.

Putting this all together for California, this means that 14,000 felons are likely to commit more than 180,000 new crimes over a three-year period — 36,000 of which will be violent crimes.

In 2008, violent crime in Fresno fell 8.6% compared to 2007, and between 2001 and 2008, violent crime had fallen by 32%. Unfortunately, the worsening economy, the increased release of parolees and other stressors in our community has led to a near 10% increase in violent crime during the first five months of 2009.

We were already starting to see this unfortunate trend develop last year when property crime rose 5.1% in 2008, the first increase since 2001.

Second, the proposed budget actually undercuts the very concept of “public” safety. It does this by requiring that local police departments pay a fee each time they use the state crime lab for forensic services. They have to pay this fee even though your taxes are already paying for the state crime labs.

This effectively means that public safety is no longer public. While affluent communities may be able to have the state crime lab process rape kits for essential DNA information, poorer communities will be unable to do so.

This state budget — for the first time in the state’s history — will mandate inferior investigative services for crime victims who live in poorer communities. This is not only terrible public safety policy, it is shameful and offensive.

Should this proposal become a reality, it will cost the Fresno Police Department more than $1 million annually. This would require us to cut elsewhere, or to simply not process evidence as we should.

Finally, the proposed budget completely destroys the 51 multi-jurisdictional methamphetamine task forces that have played a significant role in our front-line defense against major methamphetamine producers.

Meth operations have become increasingly sophisticated and violent, and these task forces have been essential to local law enforcement. Moreover, the Mexican drug cartels are poised to move their operations into California. The destruction of these task forces amounts to unilateral disarmament of essential law enforcement resources.

This is unacceptable; surely Sacramento policymakers can do better than this.

As it stands today, these three proposals are all poised to be adopted; if they are, the safety of communities across California will be compromised.

Jerry P. Dyer is the chief of police for the city of Fresno.

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