The link above is to a an excellent story by Channel 10 News in San Diego on the underreporting of crime in San Diego, a subject previously discussed here. Click here to watch the actual video. In 2002, law sponsored by the California State Sheriffs' Association actually made it easier for police officers and sheriff deputies to ignore a citizen's arrest. If law enforcement fails to act on a citizen's arrest or fails to take a report of a crime, then it as though the crime never happened. It is not recorded in the official crime statistics for San Diego. Crime appears to be down when it actually is not.
In some recent cases, San Diego Police Officers have declined to take shoplifters into custody. In one extreme case, security from a local mall took a shoplifter who had taken more than $500 of merchandise into custody at the request of a store employee. Two SDPD officers later convinced the store manager to drop the charges and apologize. Police later decided to arrest the shoplifter several days later on outstanding arrest warrants.
A related problem is the issue of unserved warrants. No reasonable person would dispute that the San Diego Police Department is understaffed. San Diego needs more officers and it needs to pay them more, but it can also do more to prevent crime by using the resources it has. Law enforcement can prevent crime by enforcing outstanding felony and misdemeanor warrants. Warrants are for wanted fugitives. The courts have long since relegated failure to appear for "minor" matters to referrals to collection agencies. Warrants are for felonies and for dangerous misdemeanors.
There are currently 50,000 outstanding warrants in the City of San Diego. The SDPD warrant detail consists of 2 officers, which is not nearly enough. I wonder how much crime could be prevented if patrol officers were proactively searching for criminals with outstanding warrants.
About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.