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Opinion

Readers React: Poverty and homelessness are bigger drivers of crime than criminal justice reform

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An inmate peeks through the bars of his cell at Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Trends in criminal activity have nothing to do with the potential punishment for offenders and everything to do with poverty, homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness. Proactive, “smart” community policing also plays a role.

The decrease in the rate of crimes of violence as well as offenses involving theft of property experienced by Santa Barbara is a tribute to the effective approach by its police department to interaction with its residents. It also belies the notion that statewide laws prescribing reduced punishment encourage violations of the law.

The assertion by Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) that people steal because there is “no accountability” and “no one’s going to jail anymore” is nonsensical. Our jails remain crowded. The vast majority of theft offenders are not apprehended, and as a former police officer, Cooper should know that.

Increased police presence, positive community engagement and restorative justice alternatives are the best deterrents to criminal activity, not the threat of lengthy, counter-productive and expensive incarceration.

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George Eskin, Santa Barbara

The writer is a retired Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge.

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To the editor: I spent my career in marketing research, working with statistics every day. A truism repeated often was, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

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Trying to determine whether letting bad guys out of prison has led to increased crime by statistical analysis is fraught with danger. Tell me which side you want to support and I’ll find the statistics to back your argument.

Any rational, unbiased person can correctly conclude that putting more criminals on the streets has resulted in more crime. We, our homes and our cars are less safe as a result of this, no question.

Bob Harbicht, Arcadia

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