Officials: Fresno crime rates rising amid jail releases

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno's latest homicide brings the city's total to 32 this year. That's 10 more than this same time last year.

Valley law enforcement officials say the state's plan to reduce prison overcrowding is partly to blame. Since Assembly Bill 109 went into effect last year they've seen a marked rise in certain types of crime.

Since then, Sheriff Margaret Mims says property crimes have gone up in Fresno County. In the city officers are dealing with more violent crimes.

Over the past 72 hour more than 350 inmates have walked out of the Fresno County Jail. The majority of them are considered early releases.

"That's where the biggest impact has occurred for Fresno County is the number of inmates coming into the county jail. They're much larger than predicted, as well as it was fast," Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

Sheriff Mims is talking about Assembly Bill 109. Since its October inception, about 300 thousand state prisoners have been released and placed on probation in local counties.

Sheriff Mims says although they're being monitored many are still out committing crimes.

"Even though their current charge might be a burglary, something that's considered non-violent, but those are the kinds of crimes that cause the most problems with our public, especially when they're happening over and over again," Sheriff Mims said.

According to Sheriff Mims, property crimes in Fresno County are on the rise.

In the City of Fresno the number of homicides for the year is up to 32 following Tuesday's shooting death of Billy Ray Burrell.

Police say while he is a victim, he's also a gang member who was released from prison under AB109.

"This misinformation that's out there that the downsizing of the prison population only impacts those that are non-violent, non-serious is not serious. We've already had three murders over the past two months that are individuals under re-alignment," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

Both Chief Dyer and Sheriff Mims admit keeping up is a challenge.

Pam Whalen with the American Civil Liberties Union suggests law enforcement agencies can reduce recidivism rates by rehabing inmates before they get released.

"Like drug training, and re-entry vocational training, things that can help people get back on their feet," Whalen said.

As for Sheriff Mims, while she has considered her options she says the best solution to improving public safety is giving agencies like hers enough resources to do it.

"What we of course are pushing for is a stable funding source. It might be Proposition 30, it might be general fund money, as long as it's paid for," Sheriff Mims said.

Not all counties are struggling. Action News spoke with an official from the Tulare County Sheriff's Office who says while their jail is at or near capacity they haven't had to release anyone early. They credit that to working with probation and placing people in work alternative programs.

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