California’s violent crime spike in 2015 outpaced nation

Violent crime spiked sharply upward in California last year, rising more than twice the national rate, according to a new report issued by the FBI Monday.

The report provides new fodder for California’s political debate over crime and punishment.

The Legislature and voters have opted to reduce penalties for some crimes, the state’s prison population has declined sharply due to pressure from federal judges and Gov. Jerry Brown is sponsoring a Nov. 8 ballot measure, Proposition 57, that would make it easier for some felons to gain parole.

Critics say that the reduced penalties have put more felons on the street and contributed to crime increases.

Adjusted for population, California’s 166,883 violent crimes increased by 7.6 percent in 2015 to 426.3 per 100,000 population, up from 396.4 in 2014, according to the FBI report. Violent crime statistics released by the state Department of Justice earlier this year did not adjust for population.

Although the state’s rate is 2-1/2 times the national increase of 3 percent, it’s not the nation’s largest jump, according to the federal data. Hawaii has that dubious honor with a 24 percent increase in violent crime. California’s increase was, however, the 13th highest in the nation, as was its overall violent crime rate.

California’s violent crime increase included an 8.5 percent increase in the rate of homicide and a 9.7 percent increase in the incidence of rape, the FBI reported.

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