Officers say the increase in Visalia car thefts is directly related to AB109--the state's realignment bill. While car theft and other crimes are up, burglaries and even assaults are on the decline.
Last month the city of Visalia was hit with two separate murders. A gang-related homicide that left an 18-year-old boy dead and the murder of 14-year-old Damiean "Luke" Gulley, an autistic boy who police believe was murdered at the hands of his stepdad. Those two crimes spiked the number of Visalia murders to eight. That is a 60 percent increase over last year's five murders.
Police Captain Jason Salazar says most of this year's homicides can be linked to gangs.
"As far as homicides being up some of those are difficult to prevent, we do our best and have our gang task force target," Salazar said.
Along with homicides, robberies and vehicle thefts are also up. Salazar said some home invasions can be connected to thieves who are after medical marijuana that is grown in houses. Visalia officers are finding themselves arresting a car theft suspect sometimes twice in one week.
"The impact of California's realignment plan, a lot of offenders for those types of offenses are coming out of prison or are no longer on parole," Salazar said.
Burglaries are down slightly. Officers say several key arrests, including a recent one for more than a dozen home burglaries has helped them keep them under control.
"We've been able to put together good cases where suspects have committed multiple crimes which help us keep them in custody longer," Salazar said.
Moving forward-officers hope to continue their efforts with other Tulare County law enforcement agencies to stop the effects of realignment.