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Study Links Spike In California Auto Thefts With Flood Of Inmates Released Early

SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) -- A new study says California continues to see a spike in auto thefts since a change in prison policy four years ago forced many local jails to release more inmates early.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) said Tuesday that sentencing lower-level felons to local lockups instead of state prisons led to a 17 percent increase in auto thefts in 2013. That's similar to the bump seen in 2012.

In fact, when the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released its annual 2013 Hot Spots vehicle theft report, California dominated the list. Bakersfield held the top spot, followed by Fresno, Modesto, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Stockton-Lodi region and Redding.

According to the NICB, just in the San Francisco-Bay Area there were 29,326 auto thefts in 2013.

The PPIC's study found violent and property crime dropped in 2013, and the researchers said an increase in property crime in 2012 was an aberration.

Jail populations continued to increase in the second year of realignment, but at a much slower rate. As a result, early releases from jails leveled off after the first year, as did the decline in the prison population.

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