Violent crime may be down in much of the United States, but it is on the rise in California. Ever since the state passed a court-mandated law that eased overcrowding in state prisons, thousands of inmates have been released early -- and violent crime has skyrocketed.
It's up 49 percent in places like Kern County. The murder rate has soared 45 percent in Fresno. "This misinformation that's out there that the downsizing of the prison population only impacts those that are nonviolent, nonserious is not serious. We've already had three murders over the past two months that are individuals under realignment," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer told ABC News.
California was forced to open its prison doors thanks in large part to the oversized wage and pension packages secured by one of the state's most powerful unions -- the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. And it's not the only "public safety" union that's making the public unsafe.
According to the latest numbers from Oakland, more than 11,000 homes, cars or businesses have been broken into so far this year. That is about 33 burglaries a day and a 43 percent increase over last year.
But Oakland residents should not expect any help from police anytime soon. The city has 200 fewer police officers today than it did in 2008, despite the fact that almost 75 percent of the city's budget goes to police and fire personnel compensation. During the last budget negotiations, the Oakland Police Officers' Association demanded higher salary and pension benefits for veteran officers instead of more money to make new hires.
A similar story is also playing out in San Bernardino. City Attorney Jim Penman, who is guiding that jurisdiction through bankruptcy, recently told residents to "lock their doors and load their guns." "Let's be honest," he told CBS News, "we don't have enough police officers."
And don't think for a second that any of California's government workers are underpaid. According to a Bloomberg News report released this week, California public workers earned more wages, overtime and other benefits than their counterparts in any of the next 12 most populous states. "State revenues are up more than 50 percent over the past 10 years, but still we've had to cut spending on services because so much of that revenue increase went to increases in compensation and benefits," former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, those same California state employees are misusing hundreds of thousands of tax dollars through bribery schemes, mail fraud, waste, and improper billings for travel and pay, according to a new Franchise Tax Board report released this week.
Unable to defeat government unions and their Democratic Party patrons at the polls, Californians are voting with their feet instead, according to new census numbers released Monday. More than 100,000 Americans left California in 2011. Their number one destination: Republican-controlled, right-to-work Texas.
There's a lesson there, if California and other spendthrift states are willing to learn it.