Legislative Analyst's Office, December 2002
California's Economy and
Budget in Perspective
2002 Cal Facts
Part 5: Crime
Crime Rate Up Slightly After Decade Decline
- After nearly ten consecutive
years of decline, California's crime rate increased slightly in 2000 and
2001. Nonetheless, crime in California remains at a low level not seen
since the mid 1960s.
- As the above figure shows, this upward shift is driven by an
increase in the level of property crimes such as burglary and motor vehicle
theft. Violent crime, such as murder, rape, and assault has held
- There are probably many reasons for this slight increase,
including changing demographics (growth in crime prone age groups), the
weaker economy of the state, higher reporting of crimes,
and improvements in policing and other law enforcement techniques.
Crime Rates Vary Widely Among Large Counties
2001 Rates per 100,000 Population
- Among the counties with populations of 500,000 or
more, Fresno had the highest crime rate in 2001about 58 percent higher than the statewide rate. Ventura's rate was the
lowest and was less than half the statewide rate.
- Variations among county crime rates are probably explained
by factors such as demography (areas with larger populations of
young men tend to have higher crime rates), local economy,
law enforcement resources, and degree of urbanization.
Prison Population Peaks and
Declines Slightly After Two Decades of Growth
- Over twenty years,
California's prison inmate population increased from about
23,000 inmates in 1979 to a peak of about 161,000 in 1999. This increase
of over 600 percent has largely been attributed to changes in law
that increased the length of prison sentences.
- Between 1999 and 2001, the prison inmate population
declined by approximately 3 percent to about 157,000 inmates.
This decline in population is due primarily to Proposition 36,
the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, which went
into effect on July 1, 2001 and redirects some drug offenders
into treatment rather than prison.
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