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Some Blame Old Criminal Justice Reforms For Rising Crime Rates In Sacramento

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — There has been fingerpointing and fallout from our state's rising crime crisis, but are lax laws to blame? Many people say yes.

Last year, Sacramento had its highest murder rate in 15 years, and organized retail crime is on the rise. Some people are now saying criminal justice reforms that were put in place years ago are to blame.

"We're in a situation now where there is no accountability for crime," said Marc Klaas, criminal justice advocate.

With rising crime rates across the state, Klaas is among those calling for tougher sentencing laws in California.

"It reminds me of 1993," Klaas said. "We have the same things going on."

That's the year his 12-year-old daughter, Polly Klaas, was kidnapped and murdered by a repeat offender.

"It's just absolutely unbelievable to me that we're going back to that time," he said.

Last year in Sacramento, more than 200 people were shot and there were 57 homicides – the highest rate in 15 years.

So what's causing crime rates to rise? Klaas and others blame criminal justice reform efforts enacted a decade ago that shortened sentences and reduced prison inmate populations.

"Think about what we used to have in plain language: use a gun and you're done, 10, 20, life, three strikes and you're out," said Margaret Mims, Fresno County sheriff.

"When you take away the consequences and you take away deterrence, believe me it's going to have an effect," said Michael Hestrin, Riverside County District Attorney.

Last month, Gov. Newsom proposed spending millions of dollars to increase public safety.

"We took a budget of nine million dollars and increased it to $200 million for violence intervention programs," Newsom said in December.

And he says past justice reforms are not to blame for higher crime rates.

"We're not walking back on our commitment in this state to advance comprehensive reforms," Newsom said. "We're not walking back in this state to right the wrongs of the past"

But others say changes are needed now to reduce violent crimes.

"It's the unsuspecting public that's been suffering the consequences," Hestrin said.

There are currently several bills being considered at the Capitol to increase penalties for repeat offenders, and there's a signature drive underway to get a tougher sentencing initiative on the November ballot.

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