A state program to relieve prison crowding by releasing nonviolent offenders to local cities has the Newport Beach Police Department making changes.
Assembly Bill 109, the state realignment plan that took effect in October, has resulted in 1,896 nonviolent, low-level offenders set free. Fifteen were released to Newport Beach, 92 to Costa Mesa, 62 to Huntington Beach, 37 in Irvine and four in Laguna Beach. In addition, 346 were released to Santa Ana and 219 in Anaheim. The state plan was designed to help relieve crowding in prisons, and released the offenders under probation rather than being placed on parole.
"Since its implementation we’ve already already seen an increase in crime in every city around us,” Newport Beach Police Chief Jay Johnson told the City Council at a recent meeting. "Every police chief I have talked to say it's a result of AB 109."
While the people eligible for the early release program are low level offenders who most typically commit crimes including home, garage and vehicle burglaries, police Capt. Dale Johnson says he is worried because those are among the top crimes committed in the city.
“Theft property crimes are number one in the city. One thing we know in Newport as a crime trend and as a pattern is very few of the crimes commited in our city are commited by our residents," Johnson explained. "The vast majority are created by those that come into our cities and victimize our residents."
Since the nonviolent offenders started trickling into the city, police officials say the department has made changes to stay on top of preventing crime. Dale Johnson said a new scheduling system has been implemented in the patrol division that has resulted in more police officers patrolling during peak hours when the crimes are occuring. The department's gang unit has also been repurposed to work closely with the probation department to conduct more parole and probation sweeps, and the detective division is working closer with other agencies to maintain police intelligence.
"We let them know that we don’t care where you live, if you commit a crimes in Newport Beach we are going to come and get you,” Dale Johnson said.
Mayor Nancy Gardner says along with the efforts of the Newport Beach Police Department, residents need to be proactive.
"They need to remember not to give them the opportunity," she said. "Do the simple things like locking the car and locking the house up."