By Katta Hules
Property crime is on the rise in Arcadia. “[I]n 2016 our police department has arrested 371 adults for various misdemeanors and felony charges. That’s 20 percent more arrests than this same time frame, last year,” said Mayor Gary Kovacic at last week’s city council meeting, reading from a statement he crafted with Police Chief Robert T. Guthrie.
Kovacic and Guthrie cite state early release programs as a probable cause. “According to our public safety experts, we have seen significant increase in property crimes since the passage of AB 109 in 2011 and Prop. 47 in the fall of 2014.”
AB 109, also known as the California Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011, is a bill passed by the state Legislature and Governor Brown to help California comply with the US Supreme Court’s order to reduce the state’s prison population. It allows inmates defined as “non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex offenders” in their “current commitment offense” to be supervised by county probation officers instead of state parole officers, according to the Los Angeles County Probation Department’s website. It goes on to state “[t]here is no such thing as ‘early release’ under AB109. … The only difference is that these state prisoners are being supervising at the county level by probation instead of at the state level by parole.”
Proposition 47 is a ballot initiative reducing “non-serious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” to misdemeanors according to California’s Secretary of State’s website. It requires “misdemeanor sentencing for petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging/writing bad checks when the amount involved is $950 or less,” the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s website states. “No one is automatically released from state prison because of Proposition 47.”
Nevertheless there has been a crime increase. From the beginning of the year to last Tuesday, according to Kovacic and Guthrie, “police officers have arrested nine residential burglars … 39 other theft suspects who have taken packages from resident’s porches through our GPS tracking device program. Of those 39 total arrests, 17 were felons, five suspects were AB 109-ers, three suspects were on felony probation, one suspect was on felony parole and nearly all of them came from outside of Arcadia.” The police department is finding many of these criminals are renting higher end vehicles to blend in while they case neighborhoods, working in groups and hitting more than one house a day. “Cities throughout our region and LA County are also experiencing increases in property crimes between 10 and 30 percent.”
Additionally, enforcing misdemeanor sentencing instead of felony has lowered jail time. “To date, these suspects [arrested in Arcadia this year] have received anywhere from six days to 16 months of jail time for their crimes under early release initiatives. Law enforcement often finds that many of these suspects reoffend in weeks if not days after they are arrested by our police officers,” say Kovacic and Guthrie.
Sergeant Brian Ortiz, president of the police association adds AB 109 and Prop. 47 have made it so it is “mostly property crimes related criminals that are released … a lot of them right here in LA county and they’re just back at work. …That’s not doing any favors to the citizens of Arcadia and the Arcadia police department.”
What can be done to protect your property? “Community involvement is absolutely essential to effective crime reduction measures in any city and our police officers need your help in reducing crime,” said Kovacic and Guthrie. Ortiz advises residents to “be more aware of their surroundings, make sure the doors are locked, if they have an alarm, that that alarm is set, that they don’t have property of value prominently displayed from where it can be seen on the street.” He also suggests getting to know your neighbors, so “everybody knows who’s who and if there’s somebody suspicious to give us a call.” This is part of the police’s Neighborhood Watch program’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign encouraging residents to call when they see something suspicious.
The police department is also tracking when, where and what type of crimes most likely to happen and focusing their efforts accordingly. “We direct our patrols … [to] those areas at those times, when we feel like we have the most likelihood of catching the suspect,” says Ortiz. “We’re taking all the measures we can to try and put a stop to this.”
See something suspicious? Call 911 for emergencies or for non-emergencies call the Arcadia Police Department at (626) 574-5123.