Catching and releasing criminals in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

A Clovis resident named "Heather" is a teacher, mother, wife, and now a crime victim.

Heather said, "Just got home, locked it up, shut the garage, and its 3:00 in the morning and my alarm's going off and everything's gone."

Someone broke into her car, stealing her soccer bag, her backpack and her purse.

Heather said, "I just felt like my life was stolen!"

A few days after the break-in, police did arrest a suspect in the case and realized he was probably related to several other property crimes. They arrested him and booked him at the Fresno County Jail. Less than 12 hours later he was released because he was a non-violent offender."

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said, "Do I keep a car burglar or do I release a child molester? And that's basically what we're down to and we have to keep the most violent and the most serious offenders in the jail space that we do have."

Mims is working with a budget 25% smaller than when she took office in 2007. The district attorney's office has also been cut, so has the police department. But property crimes are up 12.5% in Fresno since last year. Auto theft is up 34%. Police now have to get creative to keep criminals in jail until they go to court.

Lieutenant Don Gross of the Fresno Police Department said, "The jail will hold individuals on gang enhancement as well as auto theft charges. So if we have someone that is a gang member that we can prove, and they're doing that for the benefit of their gang, then yeah, we can hold them."

The bottom line is with state and local budget cuts, you're going to have to be the first line of defense in property crime. When it comes to your car, lock the doors, don't leave the keys, and make sure there's no personal property in view.

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