For California’s Crime Victims – Budget Dust

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Despite his protestations to the opposite in the recent debate with Governor DeSantis,  California’s violent crimes are up 6.1 percent and property crimes are up 6.2 percent over their 2021 levels, making California a crime outlier compared to national crime statistics which have dropped.

The Governor’s “Real Public Safety Plan” offers a scant $1.1 billion over four years.  That’s just over $250 million per year or, put another way,  $152 per Californian per year in State support for crime victims, narcotics interdiction and enforcement – including fentanyl, organized retail crime, human trafficking, and taking firearms away from criminals – which reports have shown the attorney general cannot seem to get right.

This budget proposal and the failures of criminal justice policy of the past ten years will leave fentanyl in the hands of dealers and addicts, human trafficked victims on the streets as sex slaves, retail thefts will continue to destroy our commercial areas, tens of thousands of illegal firearms will be left in the hands of criminals, and crime victims will continue to wait for months for compensation and treatment for their suffering – if any comes at all.

The Governor has decreased the victim services budget to the point that the $7.1 million being spent per capita to provide prison inmates with voice telephone access exceeds victim spending per capita for domestic violence victims.

The best way to save money is to reduce crime.  Using the Rand Institute’s “Cost of Crime Calculator,” I put the total cost of crime in 2022 at over $61 billion dollars, far exceeding the total State and Local criminal justice budgets combined.

The Governor likes to term his budget priorities as “investments,” but offers no data as to what our criminal justice return on investment is and, for that matter, when we should realize the benefits of what is now an over ten-year-old experiment in criminal justice reform.

For all the billions we have spent on prison realignment, diversion and rehabilitation programs, and the wholesale release of dangerous criminals – recidivism have remained at pretty much the same levels for over ten years.   This means the same people are committing crime over and over.

California is releasing inmates at a higher rate than they are being sentenced, yet crime is increasing as if almost by design.

All of this begs the question – how does the Governor define success?

California has squandered the greatest budgets ever placed in the hands of a state government in US History, and is on track to do more of the same this year with the Governor’s budget proposal.

Steve Smith is a senior fellow in urban studies at the Pacific Research Institute, and author of the recent study on California’s growing crime problem, “Paradise Lost.”

 

 

 

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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