Reasons behind increases in El Dorado County crime statistics uncertain
A pair of killings with multiple victims saw the number of homicides spike in El Dorado County in 2015, and rapes and robberies also saw significant increases. The reasons behind the jumps in the latter two crime categories remain unclear.
The unincorporated areas of El Dorado County, not including cities like the South Lake Tahoe and Placerville, saw nine homicides in 2015, a jump of 350 percent compared to 2014 and 2013, which each saw two homicides apiece, according to statistics released earlier this month by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s Lt. Jim Byers said the increase in homicides in 2015 can largely be attributed to two incidents where people are believed to have killed members of their own family. In September, a 16-year-old allegedly killed three family members in a cabin near Placerville, and in November, 49-year-old Milo Wallace was arrested in the shooting deaths of his brother and mother south of the West Slope city.
The number of reported rapes in unincorporated areas of El Dorado County rose from 33 to 48 between 2014 and 2015, an increase in 45 percent, according to the statistics. The number of robberies increased from 23 reports to 32, a jump of 39 percent, according to the figures. Byers said the sheriff’s office expected these numbers to increase in 2015 based on how crimes are counted under Proposition 47. The proposition was approved by voters in 2014 and reduced a variety of drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and was designed to help reduce California’s swollen state prison and county jail populations.
There is a concern within the sheriff’s office that the release of inmates under the proposition may have increased the numbers of certain crimes within the county, but the office will need at least another year of data to see if the numbers are a result of actual increases in crime or in how the crimes are recorded under the new law, Byers said.
“It’s our opinion that these people are reoffending and committing more crimes,” Byers said.
Several cities around California have reported increases in crime in 2015. Whether the higher crime rates can be directly tied to Proposition 47 is unknown, according to an October post by the Public Policy Institute of California’s Magnus Lofstrom and Brandon Martin that compares Proposition 47 to the state’s prison realignment to reduce prison populations, which began in 2011.
“There are good reasons to be cautious about attributing these upticks to Proposition 47,” according to the post. “Crime trends fluctuate frequently and widely and it is challenging to pinpoint specific causes. The first year of realignment provides a good example of this. After a long decline, both violent and property crime in California increased in 2012, the year after realignment was implemented, and many blamed the reform. However, as our careful analysis has shown, there is no evidence that realignment led to more violent crime, and the only uptick that can be attributed to the reform is auto theft.”
In El Dorado County, auto thefts decreased 23 percent, from 56 reports to 43, between 2014 and 2015; assaults decreased 11 percent, from 872 reports to 776, and burglaries decreased 9 percent, from 56 reports to 43. Larceny, or the theft of personal property, rose 9 percent from 1,299 incidents to 1,414, according to the statistics released by the sheriff’s office.
“These statistics are the first to include recent legislation (Proposition 47), and while there are some significant statistical differences between 2014 and 2015, a majority of these changes represent the way some crimes are now being reported under this new legislation,” according to the press release announcing the release of the 2015 crime statistics from the sheriff’s office. “Having another year of data collection will provide a clearer picture of the effects of Proposition 47.”
The full press release, including detailed statistics, is available at http://pio.edso.org.