No one likes to feel unsafe in their hometown. Unfortunately, this is the reality that many of the residents in Riverside County, California have to deal with on a daily basis. Crime rates in the area have been escalating recently, which has prompted Riverside County District Attorney, Michael A. Hestrin, to take action.
Hestrin will be speaking before a live audience at a free event on October 1, at the UC Riverside College of Engineering’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology. During the event, the D.A. plans to address county’s crime rate, including factors that could be influencing the crime spike as well as the effects of rising crime on public safety. The event, titled “Rising Crime in Riverside County: What is happening?” is part of the University’s 2015-16 Randall Lewis Seminar Series.
DA Hestrin has been quite vocal about crime in Riverside. In an op-ed last month, Hestrin expressed his concerns over the current state of California’s justice system. According to Hestrin, there has been a shift in the manner in which law breaking persons are treated. Beginning with the enactment of Assembly Bill 109 in 2011 and continuing through the passing of Proposition 47 in 2014, the D.A. believes there has been a shift within the state’s criminal justice system that has allowed for greater leniency with criminal offenders.
Assembly Bill 109 sought to reduce overcrowding in prisons by transferring individuals who have been convicted of lesser crimes to county jails. According to Hestrin, this bill forces the county’s sheriff to release “the best of the worst” and allows criminals to avoid paying the price for their offenses.
Proposition 47 allowed a number of offenses previously classified as felonies to be downgraded to misdemeanors, including drug possession and theft crimes that amount to $950 or less. Hestrin expressed his disdain for the proposition, arguing that it allows criminals to “receive the equivalent of a traffic ticket” for certain offenses.
It is because of these reduced penalties, Hestrin contends, that crime rates have skyrocketed in Riverside County. The D.A. explains that because offenders aren’t facing the same strict penalties as before, they are not being deterred from committing crimes or repeat offenses.
“Without the ability to punish offenders, criminals are incentivized to repeatedly victimize our communities, rendering our best rehabilitative efforts futile,” said Hestrin in the op-ed.
Hestrin also noted that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department reported a 20 percent increase in robberies and 16 percent in aggravated assaults in the first quarter of 2015.
To combat crime, Hestrin has partnered with local and state law enforcement officials to create an Organized Crime Unit, but in his opinion, crime fighting efforts are far from over. He is working to propose an amendment to Proposition 47. Hestrin also urges residents to be active in their communities and express support for public safety initiatives with county and city representatives.
But what of those who have been accused of a crime? Well, at this point, the best thing anyone who has been suspected of committing an offense can do is contact a criminal defense lawyer for assistance.
If the D.A. is cracking down on penalties for offenders, it means that the punishment for certain crimes may increase. Criminal defense attorneys can help fight any unlawful penalties, especially when the accused is a first-time offender.