It was nearly a month ago that Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig, along with Chief Probation Officer Brent Cardall, blamed the implementation of Proposition 47 on a cited rising crime rate.
“All of the major cities in Yolo County, Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento, have seen increases in violent crime and property crime in 2015,” he said. “We are surrounded by the very imminent threat, and I don’t think it’s going away.”
“We have this large Prop. 47 population which we really don’t have much of a stick any more to get them into treatment,” he said. “If we can’t get them into treatment, it’s like rolling through a spinning turnstile. That’s the problem.”
“Our efforts so far have been pretty dismal,” he said.
At the time, the Vanguard noted that some research in the state suggested that those conclusions were premature and cast some doubt on the conclusion that Prop. 47 is the driving force in the uptick in crime.
The Vanguard has received evidence now from Davis and West Sacramento showing that, after rises in crime in 2015, crime has moved down early in 2016. The first quarter data for Woodland will not be available until April 15.
The preliminary data shows, at least in Davis and West Sacramento, felony crimes both violent and property, are down. In West Sacramento the trend is dramatic with 2016 levels actually below those from 2014.
Violent crime in West Sacramento is now down nearly 28 percent, while property crime is down 23.5 percent, for an overall drop of 24 percent.
In Davis, violent crime, low to begin with, has held steady for the most part, with 18 such crimes in 2014, 18 in 2015, and a slight rise of 5.5 percent to 19 in 2016. However, property crime is down nearly 16 percent, for an overall decrease of 15 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Davis breaks down by crime type, and, following a usual pattern, we see that in violent crime, rape is down (4 to 2), aggravated assault is down (10 to 8). But robbery, which fell from 6 to 3 from 2014 to 2015, is up from 3 to 9 in 2016. Last year there was the one homicide (the murder suicide last March), with none this year so far.
On property crime, we see burglaries are down slightly (81 to 78), larceny is way down from 394 to 313, but vehicle theft is trending up from 16 to 26 to 31 by 2016. Again, this seems to following a typical pattern for Davis, where some crime is trending up even as the overall crime is down.
The overall conclusion is that it is too soon to tell – but that is what we argued last month and what we saw with AB 109.
As Mike Males, Senior Research Fellow at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, put it, “It is too early to conclusively measure the effects of Proposition 47 on crime rates just one year after the law took effect. The urban crime increase in the first half of 2015 could be a normal fluctuation, such as those that occurred from 1999 to 2001 or from 2005 to 2006 (CJSC, 2016). Initial trends are often reversed later. In the case of Realignment, implemented in 2011, crime initially increased in 2012, but later declined sharply in 2013 and 2014.”
But that didn’t stop Yolo County Chief Probation Officer Brent Cardall from joining Jeff Reisig in his criticism of Prop. 47 last month. Mr. Cardall told the Board of Supervisors, “Prop. 47 has not been good, in my opinion.”
Both men blamed the lack of “a stick” to convince offenders to enter treatment as part of the uptick in crime.
“They’re not looking at a year in jail,” Mr. Cardall said. “They’re looking at 30 to 60 days. … I have not seen lengthy sentences with that population.”
To Supervisor Jim Provenza, he offered, “The judges could order longer sentences.”
The problem with shorter sentences, Mr. Cardall said, “is the clients would rather (face) 30 to 60 days in jail and be done with their sentence and be released. It’s difficult to have them under supervision and go through treatment if there’s not a stick.”
Mr. Reisig offered, “For 2015, California is leading the way in violent crime and property crime increases.”
But, while the conclusions are still premature, the new data suggest a different story – one that suggests that 2015 was a sorting out year and that it is too soon to tell in terms of long-term and overall impact of these major changes.
However, the Vanguard still believes that there has been an implementation problem with Prop. 47.
The expectation was that these sorts of crimes would result in treatment options, with the money freed up from savings on incarceration. That part hasn’t happened. And while opponents of Prop. 47 like Jeff Reisig lament the rise in crime, they fail to take responsibility for their part in it.
Sources tell the Vanguard that there was a treatment plan that would have been implemented in Yolo County, that all the other stakeholders had agreed to, but the district attorney himself blocked it.
Yolo County has some options that the DA has reportedly refused to utilize. One possibility is to divert Prop. 47 defendants into treatment at the Yolo County Day Reporting Center. The DRC was opened in February 2013 and it provides vocational training, life skills which are designed to teach offenders the skills they need to find a job.
One of the programs they have includes drug and alcohol treatments. That is an existing program which has received high marks.
The other thing that the DRC can do is job training, providing vocational and life skills to help them get a job.
From our standpoint, Mr. Reisig has a potential solution right in front of his nose, and refuses to use it. Earlier in his presentation he bragged about the success of the Neighborhood Court diversion program and how jurisdictions across the state and even the nation were looking to adopt it.
While the Neighborhood Court program has a lot of potential, advocates of restorative justice approaches argue that we should go further – much further. In November 2013, the Vanguard featured Fresno County Judge David Gottlieb as a speaker and he had implemented a restorative justice program in Fresno involving youth offenders.
Since 1982, Fresno County has had something called a VORP – Victim Offender Reconciliation Program – which has the ability to bring “victims and offenders together in safe mediation or family group conference settings to permit the offender to take responsibility for his or her actions, to make things as right as possible with the victim, and to be clear about future intentions.”
Right now the Yolo County program focuses mainly on victimless crimes, but Fresno has for 30 years been far ahead, bringing victims and offenders together.
Many have falsely argued that programs like restorative justice approaches are “soft” responses to crime. However, they are missing a crucial element. In a punishment-based system, the individual is incarcerated. They often maintain their innocence and rarely have to take responsibility for their crimes.
The district attorney, at the very least, has the opportunity to introduce a restorative justice program for what would now be petty theft charges when an individual steals less than $900 worth of property. Why not implement the Neighborhood Court as part of the process to deal with those individuals?
It is not that the expansion of the Neighborhood Court alone will resolve the problem, but the implementation of a real treatment plan along with an expansion of the Neighborhood Court will at least allow us to look at proactive solutions, rather than waving our hands and complaining about voter-implemented policies that the county cannot change.
—David M. Greenwald reporting