It should come as no surprise to most local residents that crime statistics are up. Chief of Police Reuben Shortnacy recently made his annual report to the city council, while voicing concerns that recent changes in state laws are making it harder for law enforcement to protect the public.
The police department received over 22,000 calls for service in 2015, That’s an increase from 17,700 the previous year, and Shortnacy said there will be some fluctuation—but numbers are expected to continue to trend up. There were an additional 15,900 officer initiated activity contacts made during 2015. Those occur when the officer proactively makes contact with individuals, without receiving a call for help.
The culprits for the increase in crime are easy to spot. The state enacted AB 109 just a few years ago. The law was aimed at meeting federal mandates to reduce the California prison population, by as much as 30 percent. The change in the law also shifted the burden for some crimes to the county level, rather than the state level.
Crimes that no longer were considered “violent” in nature, in many cases, have been reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, Those found guilty are often now housed in county jails, rather than prisons.
And the county jails have become revolving doors for criminals. As an example, a person can be cited and released for burglary (see additional story). County jails are so stuffed that criminals can have their sentences slashed just to make room for the next batch.
Also hindering public safety efforts was the passage of Prop. 47, which decriminalized many drug offenses. To do any meaningful jail time, an individual needs to be a major drug dealer. The average meth or coke addict, loose on the streets to commit petty crimes to support a habit, rarely does time in jail.
Under these pressures, the local police department saw a spike in both property and violent crimes last year. Shortnacy said there was a 21 percent increase in Part I crime in Corcoran in 2015, compared to the previous year. Part I crimes include rape, robbery, assault, burglary, murder, arson, vehicle theft and other serious crimes. In fact, there was an increase of over 300 percent in vehicle theft last year compared to 2014.
Part II crime statistics also increased by almost nine percent. These are less serious crimes, such as petty theft.
There has been a huge increase in identity theft reports, with the police department noting 35 cases last year. The previous year, 24 cases were reported.