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Sensationalized stories and anecdotal information in the media over the past year may make you want to hide behind a closed door. In 2011, Realignment caused great concern that floods of state inmates would walk out of state prison and into the streets. This of course was not true, but over the last year media stories have highlighted concerns that Realignment is causing more local crime. A recent CJCJ report highlighted that despite a slight uptick in crime during the first six months of 2012, the blame can not be placed on increasing local responsibility for the non-non-non” population. In fact, despite this recent increase in crime in California it has been on the decline since the 1990s, and is still at record lows. 

So, if this is the case, who is causing crime in California? 

Contrary to popular myth, a recent report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSGJC) found that only one in five people in the four metropolitan areas studied were under parole or probation supervision when they were arrested. 

In fact, individuals not under law enforcement supervision, as well as those without a history of parole or probation supervision, comprised more than 60% of the arrests. This suggests, and the report concludes, that law enforcement agencies should target those people not under supervision and learn more about them in order to implement effective strategies that reduce crime. How to implement this recommendation requires further discussion. 

What about the parolees and probationers committing crimes?

Dissecting the data further the CSGJC report found only 1:6 people under parole or probation supervision were involved in arrests for violent crime.” However, the study also demonstrated that a disproportionate number, 1:3, of individuals under law enforcement supervision contributed to drug crime. 

The study indicates this population requires substance abuse and mental health services while under community-based supervision. Some counties such as San Francisco have dedicated a substantial amount of fiscal resources to enhancing the array of services available at the local level. Decisions like these made by justice administrators are essential to reducing rates of recidivism and addressing the goals of long-term public safety. 

The CSGJC report demonstrates the need to utilize data driven studies to inform the use of deliberate interventions. Data informed decisions allow local justice administrators to better identify ways to improve public safety by understanding who is truly committing the crimes, rather than relying on anecdotal stories from sensationalized media stories.