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Oct 2012
One year in to realignment, local law enforcement voice fears

A year into the implementation of Gov. Jerry Brown's public safety realignment, dozens of law enforcement officials from across Southern California came together Tuesday to express concerns about its impact on crime and on their scarce resources.

"Crime appears to be on the increase," Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine said, citing statistics from downtown Los Angeles, Sacramento and Fresno. "It's frightening."

A spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, however, countered that a year is not enough time to judge whether transferring the supervision of certain criminals from the state to counties has been a success or a failure.

"It's incredibly early to make any kind of determination," spokeswoman Dana Simas said.

"I understand there's some local law enforcement concerns about rising crime rates but, at this point, it's all anecdotal," she added. "I don't have any numbers from any law enforcement agency saying these numbers are going up."

Realignment is Brown's way of carrying out the Supreme Court ruling ordering a reduction in the state prison population by more than 30,000 inmates by June 2013.

It mandated sending inmates sentenced on or after Oct. 1, 2011, with nonviolent, nonserious and nonsexual (N3) offenses to county jails instead of state prisons.

It also placed inmates released on or after Oct. 1, 2011, under the supervision of county probation officers, instead of parole agents, if their last offense was an N3.

Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Michel Moore said about 4,000 such recently released inmates came to the city of Los Angeles last year.

"We've had 11 arrested for attempted murder, and six for murder," he said.

In all, about 2,500 have been rearrested for new crimes and 500 have absconded.

Moore said L.A.'s crime rate has dropped steadily over the last decade, and that trend continues. The slide in property crimes has slowed, however, since realignment took effect.

"We still enjoy a nearly 7 percent reduction in violent crime but what we've seen is a steep deceleration of our property crime reduction," he said.

Los Angeles County Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers said his department was put in charge of supervising 12,000 recently released inmates during the first year of realignment.

He admitted the county Probation Department has only now achieved the level of staffing and training to take over the job previously held by parole agents.

"To be frank, I wish we had the whole of last year to prepare for this," Powers said. "We've been behind the eight ball in running to try and catch up to this population."

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff Cecil Rhambo said the influx of about 500 realignment inmates a month is pushing its jail system to its limits.

"We're incrementally growing monthly," he said. "Quite frankly, I'm going to be running out of jail space."

Rhambo said the Sheriff's Department admitted about 8,500 realignment inmates to its jails in the past year, and released 2,800 of them.

Currently, realignment inmates make up a third of the jail population of 18,900.

Rhambo said the department is looking at several options to manage the inmate population, including outsourcing the incarceration of some inmates to jails near Bakersfield.

He said lack of space has already prompted him to halve the time women inmates serve for misdemeanors. Previously, they served 20 percent of their sentences.



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