Crime up in Kern County: some blame AB 109

New numbers released Wednesday show Kern County crime rates are up in the wake of AB 109, the state prison realignment program which took effect in October.

New numbers released Wednesday show Kern County crime rates are up in the wake of AB 109, the state prison realignment program which took effect in October 2011

According to the Kern County Probation Department, about 2,000 inmates have been released in Kern County since October 2011, due to AB 109. That's more than double what the state originally expected.

Both the Bakersfield police chief and the Kern County district attorney believe this is contributing to an increase in crime.

"From our perspective crime is going up," said Lisa Green, Kern County District Attorney.

Comparing October 2011 to June 2012 to October 2010 to June 2011, the crime rate is up six percent in Kern County. In the city, it's even higher, up 20 percent in Bakersfield. The Kern County District Attorney's office said they've seen 25 percent more cases referred to them in that same period.

"It's not good. It's a grim picture," said Green.

These numbers were released Wednesday morning during a Community Corrections Partnership meeting.

No local official can say for sure, but many believe the crime increase is because of AB 109.

"There hasn't been a whole lot of change in what we are doing down at the police department compared to the last six years, where our crime rate has dropped," said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson.

"The jail has become synonymous, at least in this county, with a revolving door, due to realignment due to the implementation of this program," said Green.

AB 109 went into effect October 1st of last year. The idea was to move non-violent offenders from state prisons to county jails to relieve overcrowded state facilities. That would then move other inmates out of county jails.

According to the probation office in Kern County, that means about 2,000 of those criminals were released into the streets on parole.

"We did know going into it there would be quite a few. We anticipated it would be more than the projection. We just weren't sure how many," said Rebecca Jamison, Kern County Probation Department Analyst.

Out of those 2,000, the county says a staggering 25 percent have reoffended. Although these numbers sound bad, county officials said they're giving the program time to be effective.

"I think it's too early to tell if it is working or not," said Green. "The implementation of many of the programs that are behind realignment have yet to happen or are just beginning"

Kern County is also still deciding how to allocate some of it's AB 109 funds.

One of which is part of Kern's Community Corrections Partnership's, Executive Committee's Public Safety Realignment Act Plan, which includes funds for community-based organizations that provide services for pre/post-release inmates. That fund totals $1 million.

Many said they want the money to go toward making ex-convict services available at one central location or putting more money toward substance abuse programs.

Since AB 109 took effect at the beginning of October, crime rates increased by six percent in Kern County and 20 percent in Bakersfield. With these drastic statistics, officials want these programs put into place sooner rather than later.

Committee members also discussed a $200,000 AB 109 planning grant. It was suggested that that money be awarded to the Kern County Sheriff's Department so it can purchase a body scanner. The Sheriff's Department said it has seen an increase in contraband and violence in its jails as a result of AB 109. Officials say a scanner would help.

The Executive Committee rejected that proposal and instead will put the money in an AB 109 contingency fund. The committee will discuss these AB 109 programs and more at their next meeting in November.

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