Crime in California

California is a West Coast state of the USA. It is the most populated state of the country. As for the legal system in California, it is based upon the English common law with a few features of the Spanish civil law. Juridical power of California is the largest in the USA. However, despite such an amount of Justices and diversity of laws, prison population grew to over 170,000 in 2007, comparing with 25,000 in 1980 (California Crime Rates, n.d.).

When someone commits a crime, he/she breaks the rules or laws. It leads to a conviction prescribed by governmental authority. What is the main reason to commit a crime? Surely, there are some people who like it, but someone can decide to commit it for many reasons, among which are poverty, drug abuse, fear, revenge, etc. As for the state of California, statistics show that the greatest per cent of crimes is accounted for organized crime. The highest rate of crimes in general was shown in 1992 (2, 061 761). Recent investigations show that there is a positive tendency for crime index to become lower (1, 128 845). Criminal activity in California is shown as controversial with illegal immigration. On the other hand, this controversy is possible when crime and immigration are regarded as separate issues; when combined, the situation is quite different.

First of all, it is important to understand clearly which crimes are widespread in California, whether they are organized or not, and which legal measures could be introduced to prevent these crimes or to fight their circumstances. Crimes in the state of California are often committed by specially organized groups (gangs). They are outlaw motorcycle gangs, international terrorists, Asian organized crime, criminal extremists, Russian/Eurasian organized crime, criminal street gangs, white supremacists, and traditional organized crime (Lockyer et al., 2001). International terrorism is a relatively new topic to be discussed throughout Californian crimes. Everybody remembers the event of 11 September, 2001. This sorrowful date brought a lot of efforts to detect and prevent terroristic acts.

Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) are still a serious threat in California. They show their notoriety in the use of violence, bullying, extortion, drug distribution, and other criminal actions in order to achieve financial gain. There is a strict hierarchy in OMG; they are well-structured and organized. Each gang has its own set of rules and regulations. Each member is supposed to follow all of them. There are about 47 OMG in California, with approximately 1, 500 members. There are two top organizations, The Hell Angels and Mongols, which exist more than 50 years. Even California Bureau of Investigations is sometimes involved in this opposition.

There are not only motorcycle gangs in California; Asian organized crime groups, which primarily operate in San Francisco, also represent a great problem for Californian police. They primarily operate with other crime groups and do not have a strict territorial nature. There are three main known Asian criminal groups: Wah Ching, Jackson Street Boys, and Korean Organized Crime. Their main task is to seek activities high in profit and low in risk of detection. Anyway, California has some programs to prevent and handle the circumstances of the crimes committed by these groups. Asians are not the ones who organize gangs or other criminal formations. Europeans, especially Russians, are deplorably famous for their gangs, sometimes also called “Russian mafia”. A great number of the members of these groups can be easily explained by the wave of immigrants from former Soviet Union. Criminal activity is still the easiest way to “earn” money. The number of crimes committed by European organized crime groups continues to grow, especially crimes involving transnational cooperation. Russians and a lot of Europeans are rather impulsive people; homicides committed by Russian mafia are not surprising to the police.

The most dangerous and most numerous, criminal street gangs can be a perfect example of the imperative relationship between poverty and its formation. The California Department of Justice estimates that there are about 300, 000 criminal street gangs all over the state (Lockyer et al., 2001). The main principle of their division is the race: African American, Asian, Hispanic, and white gangs. They are not as organized and sophisticated as organized crime gangs. However, that does not make them less dangerous to society. African American and Hispanic gangs have a continuous feud that leads to turf wars. A great amount of homicides is also the result of this feud. Asian gangs are more in common with robbery, thefts, and currency operations. White street gangs are often in “cooperation” with outlaw motorcycle gangs which increases their power and thus damage they may cause. Such groups as well-known Ku Klux Clan, National Alliance, and World church of The Creator are also the result of such gangs’ activity, their feud and the discriminate relations between them.

According to the statistics of 2001 and following years, criminal extremists held demonstrations and publicity stunts. They also were involved in physical assaults, vandalism, harassment, arson, property destruction, theft, and release of animals. Such criminal acts are not only extremists’ distinctive feature. There are also other “organizations” or individuals who lend to such ways to commit a crime. Sometimes it is poverty that forces a person to do this: to get insurance for the house demolished by the fire, to accuse a person in vandalism in order to get compensation, etc. As for the extremists, they have only political aims in their acts. They could also antagonize against violent actions, acting violently at the same time. Animal Liberation Front can be a good example. The arsons and vandalistic acts they committed to stop medical researches on animals could easily kill the animals they protected. Another group of extremists, Earth Liberation Front, tried to protect the environment, polluting it with the arsons during their protests. Unfortunately, not all actions could be prevented by law. What is more, it is not always possible to find the guilty, because arson or vandalism usually destroy all the evidences.

Juvenile crime in California remains the greatest problem. Guys usually join gangs in their teen years. Poverty is not the only reason for juvenile crimes. Computer games, horror films, or TV shows bring violence to their lives. Becoming violent does not mean becoming cool, but not for the teenagers who are supposed to be the members of the gang. There is another side of the coin. If a child is brought up in a rich family, he or she will, sooner or later, have a desire to possess all the goods by his or her own. Statistics says that in most cases crime in such families is committed by one of their members. 

The information above discusses the groups which commonly are the executives. As for the crimes, statistics shows that the greatest amount of crimes is concerned with property; unfortunately, violence has a tendency to grow as well as assaults. There are different types of thefts (larceny-theft, burglary, vehicle theft). The index of robbery in 2011 was 54, 292 (comparatively to 130, 897 in 1992) (California Crime Statistics, n.d.). Luckily, the index of rape and murders gets lower. On the other hand, that does not mean it will go to null.

The state of California has a number of programs to prevent crimes. They are Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Program, Violence Suppression Program, the Diversion Program and the Prevention, and Education and Awareness Program (Petitto, 2010). These programs are intended to prevent drug use and production, and to crack down on illegal weapons. The Supreme Court of California was the court that applied the death penalty. California has more than 500 of State and Local law enforcement agencies with about 130, 000 of staff, 80, 000 of which are sworn officers (those who have general arrest powers). Popular TV series, Mentalist, show the work of California Bureau of Investigations from inside, also making their contribution in the fight against crimes.

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