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Realignment only works putting crooks in Ceres
Art deWerk is the police chief and acting city manager of Ceres.

Budgetary problems and the grand social experiment being conducted by the state that is "realignment" has created a free-for-all for the lower level criminals, many of whom no longer fear the consequences of being arrested or having to face the "system" for their wrongdoings. Law enforcement agencies around the state have lost large numbers of officers and the overtime needed to maintain adequate staffing for call responses and investigations. The state has created a transfer of prisoners to local jails that has made it all but impossible to keep local offenders behind bars. As it stands now, local jails are packed with criminals transferred from state prisons, leaving space for only the worst of the worst. Local sheriffs are doing what they can to protect our communities from criminals, but it is not uncommon for violent offenders who do not meet the "worst of the worst" standard to be released back into our communities long before their sentences have been completed.

State officials would have you believe that AB 109, or "realignment," is working and that it is good public policy. The governor recently told a group of local law enforcement officials that the new program just needs more time to work. But it is not working and there is little reason to believe that it will. The only proven method for curtailing crime is to separate the offenders from society and make the effort to rehabilitate and provide the appropriate tools so criminals can once again become productive. The system we now have does few or none of those things, and the net result of this is a population that is afraid to allow their children to play outside their homes, any items of value must be chained or locked away, identity theft is rampant, mail has to be protected from theft and the list goes on.

The people who pay the price for this are our residents, business owners and operators and the good people of this state as a whole as they give up their last hopes for a sense of security and protection from the masses of thieves, drug addicts and other criminals spending their entire lives committing crime. We are seeing what appears to be more criminals and drug addicts setting up camps throughout our communities, with a corresponding amount of valuable metal thefts, miscellaneous petty thefts and other crimes.

The idea of things changing for the better anytime soon is unlikely, so the problem is left to the people and law enforcement of local communities, with prevention and intolerance of the factors that lead to crime being the key to having a safer community. In Ceres, for example, timely actions taken by residents led to the prompt and successful apprehension of serious lawbreakers. Recently, there was an attempted rape. The predator criminal was released by jail officials through no choice of their own - the jail was overcrowded and those who remained locked up were more considered dangerous than he. A neighbor noticed a suspicious person and called police when she heard glass breaking next door. At the same time, the survivor courageously and fiercely fought back. When the suspect fled, another neighbor in the area reported his request for a ride to evade police. This helped police to locate and apprehend the suspect.

In another instance, there was an attempted kidnapping/robbery where the female victim fought back and escaped. Her husband went after suspect and detained him while an observant neighbor noticed the activity and immediately called the police. Again, the suspect was taken into custody and booked into jail. There are other examples where there was serious crime with neighbors acting quickly to report critical details to the police, allowing them to locate and arrest the suspects.

The point is that neighbors working with the police can help give criminals the impression that a given community has a low tolerance for crime, and that people are watching, ready and willing to get involved to preserve the quality of life in their community.

We cannot do much about the state's "realignment" program, other than to implore our legislators to direct more funds to local communities for jail space, law enforcement services and community crime prevention program. If our legislators are not told what we want, they may well spend tax revenues on things not as important as community security and safety. At the same time, much of our fate lies in our own hands; the police want and expect residents to keep an eye out for suspicious and outright criminal behaviors. Many people feel that their calls are a bother to the police, but the reverse is true - it is your care for the community and your willingness to work hand-in-hand with local law enforcement that improves our chances of thwarting crime and arresting violators that affect our quality of life and safety.