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Guest Commentary

Prosecutor Doug Haubert on Straight Talk

From Issue: Volume XX - Number 4

Art Levine’s recent guest on Straight Talk was Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert.

Art: Let’s talk about the crime stats. The very good news is that murder is down 36 percent; 10 less murders this year.

Doug: The statistics from 2010 showed that was one of our best years here in Long Beach since they started to keeping statistics back in the 1970s. 2010 had the fewest murders, and it looks like we improved on that in 2011. The murder statistics are very important and I’m happy to see that we’re making progress there. The men and women in the Long Beach Police Department are doing a fabulous job.

Art: Robbery was about flat at 1.1 percent. Residential burglary, a 25 percent increase. Commercial burglary, 17.8 percent increase. So in tough economic times, you normally do see increases in burglaries.

Doug: This is a recession but we’re actually seeing good crime statistics and those are nine month numbers. So the most important thing will be at the end of the year, what the numbers look like? And you’re looking at numbers that are compared to 2010 and 2010 was a very good year.

Art: The state is releasing to the counties some thousands of prisoners, and L.A. County in particular, is getting quite a few because that’s where they came from. Speak to the problem that realignment is causing.

Doug: The Los Angeles County Jail System will receive a lot of these violent criminals, these felons, which will then cause a displacement of somebody. Someone is going to be early [released]. So when the sheriff receives these people from the state prison system, he has to make a decision. Do I release this felon, the person that came to me from state prison, or do I release someone who’s already in county jail in order to make room for that inmate?

Art: And that decision is entirely in the discretion of the sheriff?

Doug: The sheriff has enormous discretion, and the sheriff in Los Angeles County is looking at creative ways rather than just releasing them on the street. He’s looking at other forms of release such as work release. They’ve got electronic monitoring and there’s different programs, he’s looking at putting them in Rehab programs. But there just is not an infrastructure in place to absorb the numbers that are moving into the county jail system, so there will be a lot of people.

Art: Is the state providing to the counties documentation on who these prisoners are that are being released with their records and also the sheriff can make a rational decision?

Doug: They are providing information and this is all new. This started October 1st of 2011. So we are literally as we go making up the rules for what information will be provided -- what resources will be provided? There’s funding for the counties to absorb these inmates but that funding expires in 2012. So we are literally playing this day-by-day.

Separate from realignment and there have been some issues with the Los Angeles County Jail System. I know the federal authorities are looking at it. The realignment problem is related to the broader issue of police manning. Chief Jim McDonnell and police chiefs throughout the state are very concerned about the release of these felons to county jurisdiction, and then the subsequent release of other bad people at a time when manning levels are at the lowest levels in years.

Realignment could not have come at a worse time. At my office, we had 21 prosecutors four years ago. We are now down to 15 prosecutors. The police department has been cut. They’re doing the best that they can with the resources they’re given but at some point, we are going to hit a crisis.

Art: Our chief has been very imaginative in the use of technology, without all the resources that he would like.

Doug: I think that’s the biggest reason crime is dropping. We’re obviously not adding more police officers. What we’re doing is we’re using the resources that we have wiser than we’ve ever done before. We’re using technology to take the place of some functions that otherwise were very labor intensive.

Art: Central to our crime problem is the problem with gangs. Long Beach has about 5,000 gang members. One percent of the population has been that way for some time. I know your office had some imaginative approaches including gang injunctions.

Doug: Fighting gang violence is my number one priority and even though it’s one percent of the population, that one percent commits [a large] amount of crime. According to FBI statistics, gangs are responsible for about 50 percent of violent crimes nationwide and in some communities, they predicted as high as 90 percent. I think Long Beach probably is one of those, where the vast majority of the violent crimes are gang-related.

Art: You’ve used gang injunctions effectively and that causes some of the members subject to the injunctions to move out of town.

Doug: Long Beach has become a model for the gang injunctions that we’ve been doing. Other cities are looking to us on how we do gang injunctions. We’re using technology to target the most active and dangerous gang members. The fact of the matter is our gang strategy is working. I think we need to do more.

Art: Does it make it any sense to consider cameras in certain areas of town that sweep and capture any illegal acts and act as witnesses to the crime?

Doug: I’d want to look at that first but there’s no replacement for just good policing and having the resources, given the resources to the police that they need to actually respond to these types of crimes.

Art: You’ve historically had been a big supporter of programs like PAL, the Police Athletic League, and others that get youth on the right track and avoiding the possibility of getting into gangs. And sadly, PAL has been eliminated. If we short change these good programs we’re going to have problems down the road.

Doug: The focus on the youth and at risk youths is a very wise investment for couple of reasons. Gangs are now recruiting kids as early as 11 and 12 years old. If we don’t catch the kids early, we could lose them forever. It’s estimated, there are about 80 percent of gang members are drop outs from school. Keeping them in school is very important.

Art: Fighting crimes is not just the responsibility of the police department or the prosecutor’s office. We all can play a role. I’m active in the Long Beach Police Foundation; speak to the value of that.

Doug: I’m delighted to see the work of the Police Foundation is doing. They’ve kind of filled the void where they’re been cuts in the Police Department. I know the Police Foundation focuses on youth and intervention programs and working with kids.

Art: And you’re a devotee of the broken window theory.

Doug: I would call them quality of life crimes. They add up, they compound themselves, and after a while, a neighborhood that looks a certain way, that has the broken windows. It has rundown housing, rundown commercial properties. It sends the message to everybody that no one cares about that block or that neighborhood. And what happens then is crime does move in and gets a foothold. Once crime takes over a block or a neighborhood or a community, it’s very hard and very expensive to combat that, so you have to stop it before it starts.

Art: You’ve been prosecutor now for 18 months. You were elected, took office in July of 2010, how do you feel about the job?

Doug: It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in my community. I have to thank the people of Long Beach for selecting me for this position. I think I’m doing a good job. I appreciate the opportunity that I have to actually work on the gang problem, putting gang injunctions in place to make neighborhoods safer. I got a great feeling, rewarding feeling.

Entertainment attorney Arnold Peter is the guest on this week’s edition of Straight Talk, which airs in Long Beach on Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on LBTV Channel 3 and FiOS 21 and at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Charter Channel 101. It is viewable on demand at