The Coastal Post - May, 1998

A Word From The Attorney General

By Attorney General Dan Lungren

Four years ago, a father who had needlessly lost his precious daughter to a sudden and senseless violent act stood with Governor Wilson at the Los Angeles Police Department, Hollywood Division, and witnessed the enactment of what undeniably had been the most important anti-crime legislation ever passed in California-"Three Strikes and You're Out."

Although there are some critics of Three Strikes who are still blind to obvious evidence represented by a record decline in the rate of crime, the good news keeps coming in.

The drop in crime is dramatic and statewide. During the Three Strikes era, the violent crime rate in California has dropped more than 26 percent. The six major crime categories are down by nearly a third and the homicide rate has plummeted more than 40 percent in just four years.

The result of this drop in crime means that California now has its lowest homicide rate since 1970 and its lowest overall crime in 30 years.

Despite the dramatic drop in the crime rate, there continue to be naysayers who believe that the current tough-on-crime laws, like Three Strikes, and local law enforcement efforts, like community-oriented-policing, do not affect the crime rate. Some say California is following a nationwide trend or that demographics are the cause for the drop in crime and that "Three Strikes and You're Out" is too expensive.

Let's look at the facts and use common sense-Ph.Ds and academic studies are not needed to tell us what works. Crime is down dramatically. California is not following a trend but setting the trend for the rest of the nation. Demographic changes and economic forces simply cannot explain the rapid decline in California's crime rate.

To continue to argue that factors other than good police work and tough new crime laws are the principle reasons for the drop in crime is to ignore the facts and degrade the fine work by people like Mike Reynolds and the law enforcement of officers of this state.

Consider this perspective. Had our 1993 crime rate continued unabated over these past four years, more than 815,000 additional crimes would have been committed in our state, including more than 217,000 violent crimes; 4,000 additional Californians would have been murdered; more than 6,000 women would have been victims of rape.

How does one place a value on crimes not committed? What is the actual cost of a murder or rape? Personally, I do not believe that there is any cost that can be placed on ensuring a child is not the victim of a brutal sexual assault or a violent murder.

A national study has estimated the average cost for each crime by attempting to measure tangible losses and quality of life. The tangible losses include productivity lost, medical care, public safety services, victim services and property and damage loss. Using this model, the savings to the state due to the reduction in crime during the Three Strikes era is somewhere between $5.8 and $15.5 billion.

What is also clear is that other predictions, such as overburdened jail and prison facilities, have not come true. According to reports from the Los Angeles County Presiding Court Judge, the courts have not been overwhelmed with Three Strikes cases. Rather, the court has adjusted and adapted to handle the cases within their existing court schedules.

To continue to ask the question, "Can California afford 'Three Strikes'?" is to ask the wrong question. The real question has become "Can California afford not to have Three Strikes And You're Out?"

Three Strikes, community-oriented-policing and the community's involvement have worked together to make California safer. Without each piece working in conjunction with our dedicated law enforcement, California would not be experiencing the record drops in its crime rate.

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