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Captain’s View

District crime up 6 percent: What’s behind the increase?

If you are reading this column, you probably live, work or visit one of the safest areas in San Francisco. The Marina is a fantastic place to be, with great food, a beautiful setting and nice homes; there’s not much of a downside to the area.

That said, crime is up 6 percent in the Northern District as of this writing, and in the Marina the bulk of that crime is property related. Specifically burglary (someone breaks into your home when you are not there), car break-ins, general theft, and auto theft are crimes in which I am seeing an increase. Fortunately, we are not seeing a rise in violent crime in the Marina.

I have written many times about ways we can reduce the chances of becoming a victim, such as by locking doors and windows; not leaving valuables in our parked and unattended cars; always having situational awareness; and concealing our valuables.

What I haven’t written about is what may be a factor in the area’s rise in crime. A court ruling three years ago led to a requirement by the State of California to reduce our swollen prison population, which culminated in AB109 (also referred to as “realignment”). AB109 designated 500 nonviolent felonies that are now punishable by terms in county jail rather than in state prisons. Starting Oct. 1, 2011, county jails began receiving all newly sentenced felons, with only the most violent going on to prison. Additionally, California prisons began releasing nonviolent offenders early, before they had served their required sentences, due to overcrowding.

In January 2012, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley was addressing an assembled group when he announced that L.A. County had hit a 60-year low in its crime rate. But before the celebrating could begin, he went on to say that his county would soon experience the “greatest spike in crime in our lifetime.” His claim was that AB109, or realignment, was “a predictable public safety disaster.” In February of this year, while addressing an assembled police group, Cooley went on to predict that there would be “more officer-involved shootings, and more confrontations with people who should be in prison,” and that “police officers are going to be hurt, some killed.” We have all seen the news: officer-involved shootings are up, and we here at Northern Station have seen an increase in the use of physical force needed to take subjects into custody.

Since October 2011, San Francisco has received 483 paroled offenders under the state’s early release program, yet our probation department just recently began hiring new probation officers to deal with the influx of those needing supervision. As a condition of their release, these “early” parolees require supervision that was formerly handled by state parole officers, but now is to be done by city probation officers. Those granted early release would have been coming to San Francisco anyway – they just came sooner than anticipated.

A bright note is that San Francisco has cutting-edge programs through the district attorney’s, public defender’s, and sheriff’s offices to deal with those returning from prison as a form of “re-entry into society,” so we are ahead of many other counties in California in available alternatives to incarceration.

As a result of realignment, the economy, or some other factor, crime is slightly up (5 percent citywide), and we can use your help in bringing it back down through steadfast crime prevention measures (some mentioned above) and communities, including the police, working together.

For more crime prevention tips, visit www.sfsafe.org.

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