Fresno drug offenders may get choice between treatment or jail

FRESNO, Calif.

It's yet another attempt to battle the ongoing jail overcrowding problem. Action News told you about the five jail beds Fresno Police have dedicated to career criminals and car thefts, and now they've got another creative idea up their sleeves. This time they're focusing on why people might be stealing.

"Well over 95 percent of the people we arrest for the crime of auto theft and most often burglary have some type of a drug addiction, and that is usually methamphetamine," Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

They devised a plan, using Turning Point of Central California. There are 40 facilities up and down the valley that help people with addiction. Police say offenders will be given a choice- go to jail or go to turning point.

"If they go to jail there's a possibility they'll occupy one of those five beds, so the incentive is to go into treatment, quickly, and get rid of their addiction," Dyer said.

Not everyone will qualify for such a choice though- they're specifically targeting those who are on parole and who are in possession of drugs.

"What I am cautious about is not taking people to a treatment facility who have victimized people," Dyer said.

Police say those criminals would be taken to a lockdown facility; and while not a jail, offenders wouldn't be given the option to leave.

"The goal for us was not just to lock people up in those jail beds- although we like doing that with career criminals…the other part was how do we get these people who are on parole and other people into a treatment program very quickly," Dyer said.

Which Dyer believes is the root of the problem. They'll be addressing addiction and the reasons why people habitually steal, and eventually they hope all of that will further reduce crime .The program is expected to be launched in January.

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