Riverside County sheriff blames Prop. 47 for a crisis of his own making

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Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco has been among the harshest critics of California’s criminal justice reforms, especially Proposition 47 passed in 2014, which he calls a “twisted, sick experiment” to blame for today’s alleged “public safety…crisis.” 

Sheriff Bianco is wrong about crime – in fact, California Department of Justice figures show crime rates are much lower today than before major criminal justice reforms began in the early 2010s. He’s even more wrong about what’s behind public and legislative concerns about crime, including an initiative proposal falsely blaming Prop. 47’s reforms for retail crimes like shoplifting.

Prop. 47 and other reforms are not the problem. The problem is the wholesale tanking of law enforcement efficiency in solving crimes and making arrests (a trend that began long before reforms took effect), led by Sheriff Bianco’s extraordinarily inefficient sheriff’s department. Sheriff Bianco and other outspoken critics are scapegoating Prop. 47 for their own costly incompetence.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is leaving most serious crimes unsolved despite its ballooning budget, which topped half a billion dollars in 2022. During that time, the department’s staff grew by 2,000 personnel, costing county residents twice as much per person compared to 1990 (in constant, inflation-adjusted 2022 dollars). 

Yet in 2022, the Riverside County sheriff cleared (solved) just 8.3% of the felony violent and property crimes reported to it. This is less than half its 1990 solve rate (17.7%) and well below most other California sheriffs’ rates today (15.9%). 

The Riverside County Sheriff’s department’s dismal history:

  • In 1990, the Riverside County sheriff, with 1,815 employees (including 1,771 sworn non-jail deputies), received $130 million in funding, or $111 for each county resident; investigated 25,334 reported Part I violent and property offenses; and solved 4,183, or 17.7%, of reported crimes.
  • In 2010, the year before the criminal justice reforms Sheriff Bianco lambastes, the Riverside County sheriff, with 3,805 employees (1,686 sworn non-jail), received $477 million in funding, or $217 per county resident; investigated 11,328 Part I offenses; and solved just 997, or 8.8%.
  • In 2022, the Riverside County sheriff, with 3,953 employees (including 1,580 sworn non-jail deputies), received $554 million in funding, or $228 per county resident; investigated 8,449 reported Part I offenses (just one-third as many as in 1990); and cleared only 698 offenses (a staggering 83% fewer than in 1990). 

These patterns of rising law enforcement budgets and falling crime-solving are occurring throughout California. We recently reported on these statewide trends, finding that law enforcement jurisdictions are spending an average of 52% more, but solving crime at a rate that’s 41% below 1990 levels. That’s all despite significant drops in the number of crimes that need to be solved. 

Even by today’s low bar for law enforcement crime-solving, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department stands out as among the worst law enforcement agencies in California.

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