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Behind the Badge Rise in burglaries a sign of prison realignment failing

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Lt. Chris Piombo

Posted: Monday, January 16, 2012 12:00 am

My wife went to her exercise class last Monday but found the gym was closed for the day as they repaired the damage from a burglary during the night. An hour later she tried to take our van to the mechanic, but found he was not going to open for business because someone tunneled through a wall and burglarized his shop. A few days later a neighbor came up to my door and wanted to know what he could do about the guy who broke into four cars on the street near his house.

People want to know what's happening and who is responsible for the increase in theft-related crime. A couple of incidents over the past few weeks might help answer those questions.

Officer found a parolee hanging around a neighborhood for no reason. He had a loaded 9mm pistol and methamphetamine in his possession. The gun had been taken in a residential burglary in the northwest part of town a few weeks earlier.

A parolee was named as a suspect in burglary of his neighbor's home. When officers arrived to talk with him, he ran out the back, chucking a shotgun as he tried to flee. He was arrested in the backyard.

An officer drove up on a suspect and victim fighting over a purse in shopping center parking lot. The suspect tried to run but the officer caught him and took him into custody. A parolee was arrested nearby as an accomplice.

Officers were dispatched to a burglary in progress during the early evening. A homeowner found a parolee standing in his garage so he locked the door and called the police. As the parolee was being taken into custody, he punched one of the officers in the face multiple times. He fought with the officers for several minutes and eventually a police canine was deployed. The parolee punched the dog several times and broke free. He tried to break into a nearby residence but the officers caught up to him and took him into custody. One of the officers had to be treated at a hospital.

A parolee was arrested as he stood in line to cash a stolen check. The check had been taken during the burglary of a corporate office earlier in the week.

A woman reported that she had been kidnapped and assaulted by her former boyfriend who happened to be a parolee. He had been stalking her since his release from prison. The suspect was wearing an ankle monitor that allowed parole officers to track him if necessary. Officers found him at a local truck stop and took him into custody.

Obviously parolees are not responsible for all of the crime in the city. But, in my opinion, we are feeling the first affects of the state prison realignment that began in early October. The realignment plan shifted responsibility for thousands of lower-level criminals from state prisons to county jails. Prisoners are being paroled to county jails who in turn release non-violent prisoners back on the street. There are only so many beds to go around so the burglars, car thieves and drug dealers are shown the door. Some county jails now refuse to admit people who are there only on a parole violation.

The bottom line is people who should be in jail are not.

The results of the system were on display last week on Daisy Avenue. A homeowner interrupted a burglary in the middle of the day. He, along with his neighbors, provided valuable assistance to the responding officers. They were able to eventually locate and arrest one of the suspects near Lodi Lake. The officers later discovered that individual had been arrested for burglary three days before but eventually released from custody.

Decisions are being made outside our city limits that affect our quality of life. That being said, do we give up and say the Mayans were right about 2012 being the end of it all?

No, our department is already in the process of developing new strategies to deal with the the problem. We're diligently analyzing trends, identifying the people involved, and coming up with innovative approaches to deal with what's going on. In this time of limited resources, these strategies must be efficient and effective and involve not just law enforcement but the public as well. We're all in this together.

As I've said before, Lodi is a very special place, worthy of our best efforts to keep it that way.

I have a colleague who works at a valley law enforcement agency that is being affected severely by budget cuts. They are losing cops left and right. He told me they plan to station their last 100 officers on the outskirts of Lodi to protect our city. His statement was tongue-in-cheek but it tells you what people think of our town.

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