Kern County is dealing with a spike in break-ins and burglaries. With summer here, Sheriff's deputies say the number of thefts are expected to get worse. Could the increase be linked to the state's prison realignment plan?
Burglaries are up this year in the city and especially the county. County Probation says the increase may be tied to the number of inmates getting out of jail early.
Security footage from a medical clinic in northeast Bakersfield shows a brazen burglar ready for his closeup. He pulls a flathead screwdriver from his pocket and cuts the cord on the camera outside California Medical Clinic.
"It's very frustrating because you feel like 'What can I do? What should I do?' I was looking for that guy," said Dr. Harjeet Singh.
Dr. Singh says the same burglar would strike again less than three weeks later. "We have conversations with people we arrest who say now is the time to commit crime because the sentencing is not significant," said Lt. Laura Lopez, Kern County Sheriff's Department.
The burglar in the video from the clinic was never caught, but those who are captured no longer get sent to state prison. They do time in our local jails.
"There is no room in the jail to hold everybody. They're holding the most serious offenders. The ones that are actually serving time do very little time in jail," said David Kuge, Chief Probation Officer.
They do little time in jail because of realignment. It has been nine months since Assembly Bill 109, the prison realignment plan, went into effect. Responsibility for supervising parolees has shifted from the state to counties.
"If they take their full sentence here, they know they're only going to serve several months and get out. Three or four months in custody is very little time as far as they're concerned," explained Kuge.
"That is a problem. Folks don't see the penalties being that significant. And, I don't have a quick fix for that," said Lt. Lopez.
In Kern County, residential burglaries for the first six months of this year, compared to the first six months of last year are up 32 percent. Burglaries at businesses have also spiked 8 percent. In the city, burglaries have gone up 12 percent.
"Quite honestly we can't pinpoint a definite answer as to why the burglaries are increasing. I think we need to go hand in hand considering the economy. Here it is summer, people have time on their hands, we have unemployment rates. The community is victim of crimes of opportunity," said Lt. Lopez.
Dr. Singh hopes someone recognizes the man in his security video so another business doesn't get burglarized. "We still have his ladder. He left his ladder here," he noted.
Probation officers tell 17 News the effect of realignment will take months to track. They are looking at who is re-offending, which programs work, and where there is a gap in services.