Police Brace for Flood of Criminals on Valley Streets

FRESNO, Calif.

The first 17 inmates to be released since the Sheriff's announcement Monday have walked out of the jail. Her plan calls for 400 releases before May third. There are currently 23-hundred inmates at the Fresno County Jail.

Action News talked with administrators at several police departments. Some believe the release of hundreds of inmates is bound to have a negative effect on communities.

Sheriff Margaret Mims says soon she will have a meeting with all law enforcement agencies to talk about the impact of budget issues.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer has extra reason to worry about crime in the city. Over the next few weeks, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims plans to close another floor of the county jail releasing nearly 400 inmates. Chief Dyer believes that move will have severe consequences.

"It leads to more victimization, higher crime rates and the potential for someone to be injured or killed," said Chief Dyer.

Fresno Police aren't the only ones concerned. Clovis Police spokesperson Janet Stoll-Lee says the releases are an unfortunate reality, "Financial times are tough everywhere."

However Sheriff Mims admits those cuts could mean a revolving door for some inmates. "We're all concerned about repeat offenders."

Now the Fresno Police Department and the Sheriff's Office are working on ways to target parolees and probationers who commit the same crimes and keep them in jail.

Mims says only non-violent offenders will be released from jail, "The third strikers as well as those that are considered serious violent felonies; those folks will stay in jail."

But because there is such a wide range of non-violent offenses Chief Dyer believes there should be no exceptions saying those who steal cars or burglarize homes should be kept in jail or even sent to prison.

Police departments say regardless of how much space is available in the jail they will continue to do their jobs -- and will not simply issue citations to people who should be arrested.

Janet Stoll-Lee said, "They are going to continue to make the arrests they are going to continue to book people into jail depending on the severity of the crime."

"I don't want to ever see our officers back away from making arrests just because we have an over crowed jail. That would be the worst thing this city will ever see," said Chief Dyer.

Booking fees are another issue. It costs a police department $9.00 every time someone is booked into the county jail. Dyer says he doesn't want agencies to issue citations instead of paying to put someone in jail -- which will then be released.

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