Hemet Police Department Chief Eddie Pust said Wednesday hardened criminals will be paroled early under Gov. Gavin Newsom's coronavirus emergency releases and crime will rise in the city and elsewhere as a result.
"Communities throughout California were told that decompression measures are taking place in the California prison system to provide health and safety to the incarcerated population,'' Pust said in a public statement.
"This is after many changes have been made in the past few years in California's criminal justice system, where thousands of offenders were released whose crimes were considered non-violent.''
Local news from across Southern California
"Now the more serious offenders are being released due to the health and safety of the current prison population,'' he said. "The impacts to the communities and the public will change significantly, and California communities will see a significant increase in crime.''
There was no immediate response to an email sent after the close of regular business hours to Newsom's press office seeking comment on Pust's remarks.
Newsom announced this month that up to 8,000 inmates will be granted automatic early parole -- generally if they have less than a year left on their sentences -- under the COVID-19 containment plan for the correctional system.
As of Tuesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported 1,898 known active coronavirus infections in and among the statewide prison population, which totals about 113,000.
Since March, more than 10,000 inmates have received automatic early parole and were placed on post-release community supervision under the stated goal of stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Riverside County Department of Probation Chief Ron Miller told the Board of Supervisors on July 14 the county is anticipating roughly 500 inmates will be released early to the county between now and the end of the year.
Miller said the highest numbers will be transferred to Hemet and Riverside.
According to Pust, 38 parolees are expected to end up in the city, and 16 of those are categorized as homeless, so it's uncertain whether they'll remain within the city limits or drift elsewhere.
"The city was told that the Riverside County Probation Department homeless officer is tasked to work with Department of Behavioral Health outreach programs to find suitable housing to secure spots for the homeless offenders before they are released,'' Pust said.
Pust emphasized that the "projected numbers'' apply only to the city, "not the county area of (East) Hemet nor other areas of the San Jacinto Valley.''
According to Pust, municipal agencies will partner with county and state agencies to manage the incoming ex-convicts and resolve "matters that negatively impact our community.''