AG Bonta’s Take on Crime in California

Last week California Attorney General Rob Bonta released state crime data for 2021.   In a statement to the press, Bonta noted that  violent and property crime rates “remain significantly below their historical highs,” then admitted that homicides increased 7% last year. This follows a 31% increase in homicides from 2019 to 2021. The largest single-year increase in state history.

Taking the Attorney General at his word that “Good data is a cornerstone of good public policy,” the latest Crime in California report strongly suggests that current policies are taking the state in the wrong direction.

The report shows that the number of homicides is the highest it has been since 2007. There were 1,000 more reported rapes than last year and aggravated assaults are the highest since 2004. Eleven thousand more vehicles were stolen last year than in 2020, and vehicle thefts have increased every year since 2008. These are not good numbers.

In his press release Bonta inadvertently provides a reason for these increases. “The total arrest rate decreased 7.3% from 2,812.3 in 2020 to 2,606.3 in 2021, continuing an ongoing year-to-year downward trend that began in 2004 when the total arrest rate was 5,385.5. In 2021, the total number of adults on active probation reached its lowest level since 1980 at 151,414.”   Why would California’s chief law enforcement officer highlight the fact that while violent crime and auto thefts are skyrocketing, arrests and state supervision of criminals are declining, unless he believed this was good news?

Of course, Attorney General Bonta is not solely responsible for the current crime wave sweeping across California.   Major changes in state law enacted over the last decade, characterized as “criminal justice reforms” by progressives, have encouraged today’s lawlessness.  As a state Assemblyman, Bonta voted for some of these laws.   As Attorney General he aggressively supports them.  The history is outlined in a California Globe article published this morning.

California is the most diverse state in the country and politically, it has been decidedly liberal/progressive for decades.  But crime is an issue that historically has brought Californians together.  This is evidenced by the rejection of ballot measures to abolish the death penalty and, more recently the recall of progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin by 60% of San Francisco voters.

Attorney General Rob Bonta shares Chesa Boudin’s beliefs on crime and law enforcement and he appears to be completely out of touch with what’s happening in the world where most Californians live.




9 Responses

  1. Rick Nevin says:

    The report also shows that the CA burglary rate in 2021 fell to the lowest level in recorded data back to 1966, after falling every year since 2012. The CA robbery rate in 2021 also fell to the lowest level in data back to 1966, after falling every year since 2017. The 2021 CA larceny-theft rate was up 3.7% versus 2020, but the 2020 rate was the lowest in data back to 1966, down 15% versus 2019, so the 2021 larceny-theft rate was the second lowest recorded since 1966.

  2. Charles Andrews says:

    It is also worth noting that the county with the highest murder rate is Kern, with the farthest thing from a progressive prosecutor one can imagine, at 14 per 100,000. Also in conservative land are Merced at 9.5 and Tulare at 8.8. In progressive DA land LA is 8.5 and Contra Costa is 4. Does not exactly support the last sentence in the post. Maybe Kern should elect a progressive prosecutor. People are afraid of crime not because crime is high, as Rick showed above, but because of fearmongers like this organization.

  3. Proposition 47 converted thefts of under $950 to misdemeanors, with no bail and no consequences. Several large California counties have lost police officers due to defunding, and recruiting difficulties. LAPD reports that it is currently short 800 officers. Fewer officers = fewer arrests and fewer convictions. The businesses and people who can afford security systems have purchased them, partially explaining the drop in burglaries. Most retailers have given up reporting thefts, as have most of the public. Fewer reported crimes, fewer arrests and fewer convictions. People do report when their cars are stolen. Almost all murders are reported. Victims of aggravated assault are usually hospitalized and the assaults are reported to the police. When violent crime is going up at the current pace, it is prudent to be skeptical of data suggesting that property crime is going down. California’s current criminal criminal justice system is no longer dealing with most property or drug crimes. State data on those offenses do not reflect what’s actually happening.

    • Rick Nevin says:

      Michael – Robbery is the second largest category of violent crime and the ongoing decline in CA is entirely consistent with the national trend. In 2020, the USA robbery rate fell to the lowest level since 1965, after falling almost every year since 2006.
      The burglary and larceny-theft declines in CA are also consistent with national trends. In 2015, the USA burglary rate fell to the lowest level ever in FBI data going back to 1960. Then the USA burglary rate fell to new record lows in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. The 1960 burglary rate was the record low from 1960 through 2014, but the burglary rate in 2020 was 38% lower than it was in 1960. In 2020, the USA larceny-theft rate fell to the lowest level since 1965, after falling every year from 2001 through 2020.
      In the case of aggravated assault, national FBI data did show an increase in 2020, but the NCVS showed a decrease –
      The national and CA trends in arrests by age also show a remarkable trend, with massive declines in arrest rates for juveniles and young adults while violent crime arrests for older adults have increased. In fact, the renowned age-crime curve has collapsed. This can all be explained by birth year trends in preschool lead exposure. If you have another theory to explain the trends by age then I would love to hear it.

  4. The burglary rate in 2020 was an anomaly. The lockdowns forced millions of Americans to stay home. The reduction in juvenile arrests has more to do with reforms that changed how the system addresses juvenile offenders than an actual reduction in juvenile offenders. Police chiefs and sheriffs report that most property crimes, and particularly thefts other than vehicles, are no longer reported. In spite of this, larceny-theft increased by 2.5% last year. That coupled with the fact that so many more cars were stolen, property crime in the state increased. The dirty secret in too many jurisdictions is that juveniles as young as 14, are committing murders and carjackings at alarming rates. Data in the next few years will reflect a resurgence of juvenile crime similar to the 70s and 80s when roughly 1/3 of crimes were committed by offenders under 18. Frankly, why you are trying to argue that crime is not much of a problem today when homicides increased by 31% in 2020 and there were an unprecedented 100,000 fatal drug overdoses last year escapes me.

    To Charles: as a “fear monger” I’m in good company from your perspective, with 60% of San Franciscans, New York Mayor Eric Adams, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and now, even the president admitting that the country is suffering from a serious crime problem.

    • Charles Andrews says:

      I’ll just note that you failed to address the substantive point, that the murder rate is lower in counties with progressive prosecutors. Politicians fear mongering on crime is hardly new. I’ll also note that you seem to think statistics are accurate when they agree with your bias and inaccurate when they do not. For example, if larceny rates are going down in CA due to Prop 47 why is the decline similar to that seen nationwide

    • Rick Nevin says:

      Michael – You failed to address the nationwide and CA record lows for robbery. Your claim that burglary in 2020 was an anomaly might be a credible hypothesis if the burglary rate had held steady for years and then suddenly dropped in 2020, but the burglary and robbery declines in 2020 continued steady trends going back for decades. You say police chiefs and sheriffs report that most property crimes are no longer reported, but how would they know that if they aren’t reported? The NCVS reports crime victimization and the percent of crimes reported to police and there is no evidence of any national decline in the percent of crimes reported to police. You predict that juvenile crime is about to surge, with no basis for that prediction. It seems like you are determined to just ignore any data that doesn’t fit your worldview.
      There was a terrible spike in the murder rate in 2020 and it appears to have carried over to 2021. Elizabeth Berger had two recent posts on the homicide spike. I thought she was very objective, discrediting Democrat talking points that Republican jurisdictions caused that spike, but also acknowledging that murder rates have also spiked in rural areas (not likely due to woke rural prosecutors). I would love to see Elizabeth provide an analysis of the astounding, ongoing change in arrest rates by age, and the collapse of the age-crime curve. There is also an ongoing horrible increase in drug overdose mortality. I don’t have special insights to explain the recent increases in homicide and drug overdoses, but those facts do not mean we should ignore CA state, FBI, and NCVS data on other major crime categories. FYI: I have a new post showing the incredible shift in arrest rates by age from 1980 through 2020, indicating that ages 25 and older now account for the vast majority of all Part 1 arrests.

  5. Our research debunked the red state/blue state crime claim nationally last week.
    Because of their relatively small populations in Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced, an increase of six or seven murders pushes their rates per 100,000 beyond LA or San Jose no matter who the district attorney is. These cities are positioned along the I 5 Hwy 99 drug transport corridor that distributes from the Mexican border to the Pacific Northwest. Established gangs in these counties operating since the 1980s are a major source of homicides, making these places anomalies when analyzing data. Many jurisdiction across the country have accepted the incarceration nation narrative and reduced the consequences for so called “low level” crimes. This has reduced reported property and drug crimes nationally. It is disturbing that some consider rising murders, aggravated assaults and 100,000 annual fatal drug overdoses less important than fewer reported burglaries and stolen bicycles where progressive DAs hold office.

  6. Charles Andrews says:

    So crime rates only matter in big cities but outside the DAs all get a pass? Talk about warping statistics to serve your biases. No matter what happens it always serves to support your view no matter what. Crime is high, in a county with a progressive DA its the DA’s fault; conservative DA, they can do nothing about it. How do you explain the 4 per 100,000 in Contra Costa with a progressive DA? I’d also note that the article you linked to concludes that the increase in homicides was even across the country, eliminating the possibility that either progressive DAs or criminal law reform are the cause.