Sacramento parolees, probationers commit more crimes in limited study

bbranan@sacbee.comJanuary 23, 2013 

In a seminal study of four California cities released Tuesday, Sacramento had the highest rate of crime committed by probationers and parolees.

The findings were in a report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center. The center said its report quantifies for the first time how much of a locality's crimes are committed by parolees and probationers.

Other studies typically measure recidivism rates – the rate at which parolees or probationers reoffend.

Recently retired Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel was instrumental in getting the study started, as he wanted more information about how to predict and stop crime before it happens.

"In California, with the big reduction of funding, we have to get smarter about fighting crime," he said.

The report found that from Jan. 1, 2008, to June 30, 2011, 22 percent of crime was committed in the four cities by probationers and parolees. Sacramento had the highest figure of the four cities, with 30 percent of crime involving parolees or probationers.

That is higher than the three other cities studied – Los Angeles with 23 percent, Redlands with 22 percent and San Francisco with 11 percent.

One reason Sacramento has more crime committed by people on probation and parole is that it has more people, per capita, who are on probation and parole, Braziel said.

Another reason: Sacramento County's Probation Department has experienced deep staff cuts, Braziel said. Budget cuts have led the county to eliminate about a third of the department's staff in recent years.

The report notes that only 4 percent of the county's probation caseload receives active supervision.

The lack of probation staff means greater responsibility for police, said Braziel, who plans to continue studying the issue as an executive fellow at the Police Foundation in Washington, D.C.

This has become especially true since October 2011, when the state turned over responsibility for lower-level offenders to counties.

Police officers should start conducting visits of parolees and probationers, as well as patrolling areas where they're in high concentration, Braziel said.

"Local law enforcement has to take a bigger role," he said. "Probation can't do it. Not because they don't want to, but because they don't have the resources."

The report received an endorsement from the Chief Probation Officers of California, which noted that the percentage of crime committed by parolees and probationers is lower than what is often assumed.

The association also praised the report for its recommendations, which include emphasizing greater cooperation among law enforcement agencies.

Braziel said parolee data ought to be shared by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation with local law enforcement. Local probation data should be standardized and shared across the state, too, he said.

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