SACRAMENTO — The number of paroled sex offenders who are fugitives in California is 15 percent higher today than before Gov. Jerry Brown's sweeping law enforcement realignment law took effect 17 months ago, according to figures released Wednesday by the state corrections department.
The increase amounts to 360 more sex offenders whose whereabouts were unknown and who were not reporting to their parole officers last year.
The statistics show the problem is not prevalent on the North Coast. In Sonoma County, all 40 sex offenders who fled over the last three years were recaptured, according to state data issued Wednesday. All but one of the 21 sex offenders who fled Mendocino County since 2010 and three of the 24 sex offenders who fled Lake County during the three-year period were recaptured. All four sex offenders who fled Napa County during the last three years were recaptured.
An Associated Press analysis of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation data shows that 2,706 paroled sex offenders dropped out of sight in the 15 months since the new law took effect in October 2011, compared to 2,346 in the 15 months before realignment. The numbers were obtained by the AP before their public release.
That's an average of 180 sex offender fugitives each month, up from 156 before realignment.
Attention has focused on parolees who cut off or disable their GPS-linked ankle bracelets, meaning that parole agents are unable to track their movements by satellite. Sex offender parolees are required to wear the tracking devices under Jessica's Law, approved by state voters in 2006.
The governor's realignment law sends lower-level offenders to county jails instead of state prisons and was enacted in part to conform to a federal court order to reduce the inmate population.
Before the law took effect in 2011, those who violated their parole by tampering with the devices could have been returned to state prison for up to a year. Now they can be sentenced to up to six months in county jails, but many are released within days because local jails are overcrowded.
Some county jails refuse to accept the parole violators at all.
The problem varies greatly by county. Many saw no significant change, while some saw decreases in the number of sex offenders who could no longer be located.
But the number nearly doubled in Fresno County, from 62 before realignment to 116 through the end of last year. The number jumped from 685 to 847 in Los Angeles County, which produces about a third of the state's criminals.
Among other large counties in Southern California, Orange County saw an increase from 91 to 119; Riverside County from 131 to 151; and San Bernardino County from 154 to 195. The number dropped slightly in San Diego County, from 141 to 140.
In the Central Valley, Kern County saw an increase in the number of fugitive sex offenders from 51 to 67, Sacramento County from 170 to 191 and San Joaquin County from 74 to 94. San Francisco increased from 72 to 84.