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District Attorneys on crime rates: 'A very, very dangerous time right now in California'

Both the Sacramento and San Diego County district attorneys point to 'zero bail' as one of the problems. The policy is no longer in place statewide.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — While nowhere near historic peaks in the 1980s and ‘90, violent crime is up in California.

Some district attorneys are pointing their fingers at California laws, policies and mistakes.

Zero bail is their big point. California instituted a temporary zero-bail policy at the beginning of the pandemic. While it’s no longer in place statewide, many counties still follow it or some version of it.  

California’s homicide rate jumped by 31% last year, making it a 13-year high. 

One victim of this type of policy is Mary Kate Tibbitts. She was sexually assaulted and killed along with her two dogs in her Sacramento home in September. 

Her accused killer is Troy Davis. He had two felony strikes but was still released without needing to pay bail just a few months prior. 

“I think it's a very, very dangerous time right now in California," Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said. 

She said Tibbitts' story is not unique. In just Sacramento County from March 2020 through September 2021, 5,100 inmates were released on zero bail. 

The total number of rearrests was 4,400. 

"Some of them have resulted in very serious violent charges, including, you know, a number of murders that we've had," Schubert said. 

In San Diego County, repeat offenders are also common. 

“It looks like close to 65% were rearrested after being released on zero bail,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said, "and of those that were rearrested 65% were also rearrested on a felony crime."

The two district attorneys are part of a current lawsuit to stop the potential early release of 76,000 more inmates.

“San Diego County being the second-largest, we expected a sizable portion of them to be released...," she said. She said that was put to a stop for now. 

Their complaints do not stop there. 

Schubert said $20 billion worth of fraud within the Employment Development Council, in charge of unemployment checks, is likely leading to an increase of illegal weapons on the streets. 

“When we've had our law enforcement partners go out and do either search warrants, or they're stopping a car or whatever, we see a combination of things," she said. "We see a large number of EDD cards, we see guns, and we see drugs.”

And then Schubert said there’s the pre-pandemic, 2014, Proposition 47 which reduced theft below $1,000 and drug crimes to misdemeanors. 

“Maybe law enforcement catches them, maybe not. Maybe they get a ticket, if they get a ticket from law enforcement, chances are highly likely they're not even showing up." she said. "That's the challenge that we face, is that we don't have the tools to hold them accountable.”

But in 2020, the California policy lab found that overall property crime, which includes theft, declined by 7.7%. 

However, it does not include 2021, where in just the last few weeks the state has seen a wave of retail theft. 

It's important to note that there are many people in favor of zero bail. 

Political reporter Morgan Rynor reached out to the attorney general, who authored a zero bail bill when in the legislature, and to zero bail advocates. 

No one was available to talk for the story Tuesday, but the attorney general's office sent a statement saying they are committed to working with partners across the state to tackle crime. 

"At the California Department of Justice, we're committed to working with our partners across the state to tackle crime in all its forms. The Attorney General believes any increase in crime is unacceptable," the attorney general's office said in a statement.

Others in favor of it argue a person's freedom should not be determined by how much money a person has. 

It's also important to note, when it comes to violent crime on a national level, the increase at the national level was higher than in California. 

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