By Lena Torres |Staff Writer|
As of Oct. 1, AB-109 has been put into effect. AB-109 also known as the prison realignment plan, aims to reduce prison overcrowding in California. Under the assembly bill, those convicted of non-violent and non-sexual offenses will be transferred from state prisons to county jails.
San Bernardino County officers are concerned that the transfer of the inmates will increase the already high gang population here in San Bernardino.
“San Bernardino has a high gang population. With the amount of inmates that will be transferred, we expect the number to increase,” said Cindy Bachman of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s public affairs.
County officials are currently facing the challenges of expanding their departments and increasing the number of employees to meet the new demand.
“The task we now face is making enough space to accommodate the new inmates,” said Bachman.
Gov. Brown’s state funding will provide money to the county jails to cover the new cost; however, some feel the state inmates will eventually be considered county inmates and the extra funding will come to an end.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office expressed that residents should not be concerned with public safety. “Public safety is not an issue,” said Bachman.
Around 33,000 criminals are expected to be transferred, of which an estimated 6,500 will come to San Bernardino County. Due to state officials’ classification of inmates, county law enforcement officials are unable to determine how many of the incoming inmates will be gang members.
“I am certain the amount of gang members here in San Bernardino will increase. My biggest concern is that we will not be able to classify who they are,” said San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Officer R. Sanchez.
According to the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, San Bernardino’s gang population is currently at 40,558, falling third to Cook County, and Los Angeles County. Of the 2 million residents in San Bernardino County, 2 percent have been labeled as gang members, putting San Bernardino ahead of Los Angeles County which is at 0.7 percent.
San Bernardino has nearly triple the amount of gang members as neighboring Riverside County according to FBI reports. There is currently an estimated 1,100 gangs existing in San Bernardino County.
Law enforcement fights back with its S.M.A.S.H unit, also known as the San Bernardino County Movement Against Street Hoodlums. The S.M.A.S.H unit is a joint effort of local and federal law enforcement agencies to end gang activity in San Bernardino County.
According to San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry, the high population of gang members in San Bernardino County dates back 20 years, due to the migration of low-income families seeking affordable homes.
Whatever the case is the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has made it clear they are able to withstand the challenges AB-109 poses.