The district attorneys of Alameda and Santa Clara counties said on Friday that they think law enforcement officials can still keep the community safe despite a recent order to release suspects accused of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies without bail.
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the state Judicial Council issued the order in an effort to protect inmates' health during the new coronavirus pandemic by reducing overcrowding at jails.
Speaking at a virtual town hall meeting on public safety hosted by Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen expressed some reservations about the policy but said, "It hasn't prevented law enforcement from keeping the community safe."
Rosen said, "What would be much worse than a no-bail policy would be if the Santa Clara County Jail became like the jail in Marion County, Ohio," where nearly 2,000 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.
"The chief justice knows that the coronavirus respects no walls and can spread throughout the community," not just to jail inmates, Rosen said.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said she has "high respect" for Cantil-Sakauye, and that the order is trying to strike a balance between keeping both jail inmates and the community at large safe.
O'Malley said police departments that if they are concerned about a serial offender who's arrested for a non-violent felony and is eligible to be released without bail, they can still contact an on-duty judge to ask that a reasonable bail be set in cases where it's warranted.
O'Malley said, however, that she's concerned that suspects accused of the human trafficking of children are theoretically are eligible for bail, saying, "It doesn't make sense to me."
But she said police departments and prosecutors can still seek to have bail set for the suspects in those cases.
Chu, whose 25th Assembly district includes San Jose, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Fremont and Newark, said he's concerned about "a surge of hate crimes against Asians" because many people blame China for the COVID-19 pandemic.
O'Malley and Rosen both said their offices are cracking down on hate crimes against Asian-Americans and are airing public service messages warning people not to engage in such activity.
O'Malley said hatred toward Asian-Americans "is very misplaced and is not appropriate."
She said the public can report hate crimes by calling 510-208-4824.
Commenting on overall crime trends since shelter-in-place orders were issued last month, Rosen said burglaries and many other crimes are down, but there has been a "significant" increase in arrests for driving while intoxicated, and the number of people arrested for driving more than 100 mph has more than doubled.