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Parolees are a huge problem for law enforcement
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The officers who regularly patrol our streets report what seems to them to be a substantial increase in parolees roaming the neighborhoods. Not all parolees are manifest criminals who continue with their lives of crime, but recidivism statistics suggest that close to 75 percent of those who have spent time in state prison will be repeat offenders and eventually end up back in the same place.

This state's department of corrections has been steadily releasing so-called "non-violent" offenders for the past 18 months in anticipation of a federal court ruling that will lead to the early release of 40,000 to 70,000 inmates. This ruling is coming about because special interest groups have convinced the courts that the prison environment is inhumane owing to overcrowding. It is true that California state prisons are filled with more inmates than they were designed for, but whether or not these prisoners are being mistreated is an entirely different debate.

The prisoners released will end up in disproportionate numbers in places like the Central Valley of California - places like Modesto, Turlock and Ceres. This is because these criminals originated from these areas, and frankly, more affluent areas like the San Francisco Bay Area or other upper-scale communities would generate too much political backlash if scores of criminals were unleashed there. Another reason for releasing these prisoners is purely economic. With the state budget tanking, the off-loading of prisoners will have a positive impact on the state's budget.

Some facts about this situation are as follows. Those being (or will) be released are not necessarily the non-violent criminals they are proclaimed to be. In this state, it takes a litany of criminal offenses to end up in prison. By the time someone receives a state prison sentence, they will have left a wake of innocent victims behind them, and have cost these same victims untold amounts of money. Furthermore, the last crime that caused a particular criminal to land in prison, indeed, may have been "just" a property crime. But do not think for a moment that these same criminals are free of past violent crimes.

Some things to consider include the fact that the state corrections system does not have enough parole agents to supervise even the existing number of parolees. The police come across "PALs" (parolees at large) multiple times daily. These are released prisoners who are supposed to be tracked by the parole system. As part of their parole arrangement, they are to refrain from going to certain places, hanging out with certain people, they are to stay off drugs, firearms and they are to refrain from...committing crime. Keep in mind, also, that many of the inmates released early from prison will have no parole terms attached to them, and are therefore not subject to the same search and seizure and parole agent oversight as they should be. And with the impending release of yet tens of thousands of additional prisoners, the system stands to become completely overwhelmed. The losers of this equation, of course, are the taxpaying, innocent citizens who otherwise deserve to be protected from this onslaught.

It does seem that the release of all these criminals is beyond the control of even the citizenry. The matter is largely in the hands of the federal court and the state department of corrections. Therefore, all we can do as a population is to be aware of what is happening and to take protective steps accordingly. Secure your property by locking houses, keep garage doors closed, keep an eye on your children and protect your cars from being stolen. If you see suspicious people in your neighborhoods, in parking lots, at parks or near schools, call the police. Try to provide as much descriptive information as possible.

The police, for their part, are keenly aware of all of these PALs that have come into our communities. Since there are too few parole agents to supervise the parolees, the burden shifts to local law enforcement agencies. It is an imperative, whether we believe the state has erred or not in releasing so many criminals in to the community.

If we fail to take care of this problem it will be a disaster, seriously harming the safety and security of the community. We keep a close eye on these parolees and early-release prisoners, by knowing their full identities, the kinds of crimes they are likely to commit and where they live. We frequently stop and interrogate them for engaging in suspicious or criminal activity. They need to know that we are watching them and will take all appropriate enforcement action as circumstances dictate. We also encourage community members to let us know of any PALs in case they have come into the city without our knowledge.

We are facing a substantial threat with the parolees and early-release criminals. If the police and community work together in earnest, we can minimize the damage these convicted criminals would otherwise do.