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Early releases, state evidence fees may make it easier to get away with crime
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How the California Legislature is dealing with the state’s $24.6 billion deficit could increase crime in Manteca while at the same time force police to decide what crimes to pursue.

Manteca — as well as other cities throughout the state — is getting hit with a double-whammy. Not only are 22,000 criminals being released early from state prisons but Sacramento is going to start charging jurisdictions fees for processing evidence at the state crime labs such as the one located in Ripon.

Based on 2008 caseloads, the new Department of Justice fees will cost Manteca Police at least $136,000 a year.

“That’s the cost of one police officer,” Police Chief Dave Bricker said.

Manteca may be hard-pressed to come up with the money especially since they may have to make another $2 million plus in cuts to balance this fiscal year’s budget.

Bricker said police will be forced to select cases to pursue that involve evidence that needs to be analyzed.

“It’ll come down to the more affluent cities being able to have better access to justice,” Bricker said.

Compounding the problem is the early release of 22,000 state prisoners in order to save Sacramento money.

Bricker noted a Rand think tank study several years ago indicated released state prisoners typically commit nine new felonies over the course of the initial several years they are out of prison.

California has a 70 percent recidivism rate. Bricker said that will be made worse by the bad economy and scarcity of jobs especially in San Joaquin County where 1,000 inmates are expected to be paroled here from the early release program.

That would translate into 9,000 new felonies being committed at a time when local budget woes are triggering law enforcement agencies cutbacks countywide.

Still, Bricker believes Manteca will be in a better position to deal with the coming tide of crime thanks to voter passage of Measure M – the half cent public safety tax – over two years ago.

Without that funding, Manteca would have 10 fewer officers on the streets.

“If we didn’t have Measure M we’d have no gang or drug units,” Bricker said. “We’d have to put all of the officers out on the street on patrol.”