A small number of inmates who will be tracked by probation instead of parole agencies will soon be released in Costa Mesa, authorities said, adding that some of the tracking will fall on local police.
Under the newly enacted public safety realignment plan, the non-serious offenders are being released into probation rather than parole. Parolees who violate conditions of their parole are being sent to jails instead, which helps ease state prison overcrowding.
Responsibility for the so-called "three nons" — nonviolent, nonserious and nonserious sex offenders — on Oct. 1 shifted to local agencies like the Orange County Probation Department.
Probation is a function of local governments previously reserved for people coming from jail, whereas parole is a state-run program for those coming out of state prisons.
Costa Mesa has about 10 offenders classified under "post-release community supervision," a new category for people who are neither parolees nor probationers but who were released under the new realignment plan signed into law in April, according to Robert Rangel, a spokesman for the Orange County Probation Department.
There are no such cases in Newport Beach.
From Oct. 1 to 15, Costa Mesa saw 12 nonserious offenders coming from prison monitored by Orange County probation, Rangel said.
By Nov. 15, that number is expected to increase by four to 16 offenders.
Huntington Beach, for example, had 13 offenders by Oct. 15. That number is expected to increase by three, to 16 offenders, by Nov. 15, according to Rangel.
The recently released prisoners are not part of an early-release program, but were scheduled to be paroled.
Costa Mesa police Lt. Paul Dondero said that while the department has been preparing for the change since April, several factors remain unclear.
"There are still a lot of unknowns on the impact on local law enforcement agencies because this is so new," he said. "Some of it is a wait-and-see."
Dondero said he has met with other agencies in preparation, and expects Costa Mesa police to assist the Probation Department with house calls and address verification, among other things.
The increase in offenders is happening at a time when the Costa Mesa Police Department is downsizing as part of cost-saving measures approved by City Council that reduce the department's expenditures by $1.8 million and cut eight sworn officer positions.
Dondero said the additional workload would have required adjustments irrespective of the cuts.
"We'll make it happen with the resources we have," Dondero said, pointing out that people normally released from prison return to their communities of origin after release.
Now they will just be supervised by a different agency.
"I am somewhat concerned that with fewer officers we may be stretched to keep tabs on new [offenders]," Councilwoman Wendy Leece said. "We are still in the process of reorganizing our Police Department. I plan to stay on top of this issue and go on another ride along to visit the motels where many [offenders] currently live."
Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) said the state is placing an undue burden on local agencies.
"As someone who has dealt with some of these convicted felons on a daily basis, I can tell you this is a huge public safety concern," Mansoor, a former Orange County sheriff's deputy, said in an email. "The governor should not be putting this burden on local governments … I highly recommend anyone who is concerned with this to contact their elected representatives."