One consequence of lowering the Napa County jail population to reduce crowding during the pandemic is a rash of repeat bookings, local law enforcement reports.
In the eight weeks since California issued a shelter-at-home order to battle the spread of the coronavirus, 12 people have been arrested by Napa Police at least twice each, according to Lt. Chase Haag. Of those, two suspects were detained four times and three were arrested three times, while another was detained five times in all – three times by city police and twice more by the Napa County Sheriff’s Office.
On Friday, Napa Police, the Napa Special Investigations Bureau (NSIB) and the Sheriff’s Office reported an egregious case in which a suspect was booked by NSIB at 3:23 a.m. for vehicle theft, burglary and identity theft, released at 6:26 a.m., then spotted stealing a pickup truck 13 minutes later.
According to the Police Department’s Facebook post, the suspect was seen taking the truck a half mile from the jail, then leading police on a chase to Fairfield where the truck became disabled. Sheriff’s deputies used a spike strip to flatten a tire along the way, police said.
The suspect, Trevor James Anderson, 35, was back in jail at 9:19 a.m. for possible vehicle theft and reckless evading of a peace officer charges, said Henry Wofford, spokesperson for the Napa County Sheriff’s Office.
Anderson was held Friday with bail set at $75,000.
“This is a prime example” of what officers are encountering as they go about their duties, Wofford said about repeat offenders.
“It’s definitely a concern; it’s a balancing concern,” said Chief Oscar Ortiz of American Canyon Police, which has not reported any repeat arrests during the statewide shutdown. “There’s a public health interest in managing the jail population, which is important. Then there’s the other side, which is: Are these people going to show up in court? Are they going to re-offend? It’s a balance – I understand all sides of it.”
The repeat arrests have taken place at a time when the Napa County jail is holding about 30% fewer inmates than its capacity, and a state emergency order has canceled bail requirements for those accused of lower-level crimes. Activities also have slowed down in the Napa County courts, with proceedings limited to the most essential and time-sensitive hearings to minimize exposure to the virus.
Napa Police Chief Robert Plummer expressed his support for lowering the jail population during the pandemic, but cautioned against lowering the deterrents against less violent crimes too far.
“If you’re the victim of a crime, you want to make sure there’s justice for you,” he said Thursday. “Even when it’s not murder or sexual assault, when your house or your vehicle is broken into, it has an impact on you, and people want to know there are consequences for your actions. Otherwise it’s a revolving door and it’s disappointing to the victims of crimes.”
Across California, thousands of inmates have been released from county jails after an April 13 emergency order by the state Judicial Council dropped bail to zero for those charged with low-level offenses. The order aimed to combat the potential spread of the coronavirus within packed lockups.
Other inmates have had weeks or months shaved off their release dates to reduce jail populations.
In general, only those suspected of serious or violent crimes currently are being charged and held at jails.
The judicial order is expected to continue for 90 days after Gov. Gavin Newsom lifts a statewide stay-at-home order, which has been in force since March 20.
Even before the stay-at-home order began, the Napa County Superior Court began sharply scaling back operations in mid-March. Both downtown courthouses were closed to the public, and all but the most urgent hearings were postponed by at least eight weeks, to lessen the exposure of judges and staff to COVID-19. The scale-back has been extended through May. The court is continuing to hear arraignments of suspects already in jail, along with some juvenile and family court cases and other emergency matters.
While some prosecutors and sheriffs around the state say the order is a limited and proper approach to dealing with COVID-19, others have expressed concerns that potentially dangerous people are being allowed back on the streets.
In Napa, one man who made a return trip to jail was Jessie Rindy, a 29-year-old transient who originally was arrested April 22 after police said he waved two knives and made threatening statements inside the Soscol Avenue Target store. He was initially booked on suspicion of making criminal threats and brandishing a weapon, as well as giving authorities a false name.
Rindy was arraigned and released on his own recognizance April 24, according to Dina Jose, the Napa County corrections director. But on May 3, he entered the Rite Aid pharmacy on Imola Avenue and stole electronic items and Dungeons & Dragons cards before waving a knife on his way out, according to police, who said he briefly kicked at officers during his arrest before being subdued.
Rindy was arraigned May 6 on charges of burglary, looting and obstructing police, along with violating his release terms from April, according to Jose. He remained in the Napa jail on $50,000 bail, with another court appearance scheduled for Thursday.
Another man found himself released an hour after being booked into the Napa jail – his third jail release in 10 days – following a high-speed vehicle pursuit and crash earlier this month, according to the California Highway Patrol.
On the morning of May 5, a CHP officer pursued a Honda that had been reported stolen in Napa and pursued it on southbound Highway 29 from the 12/121 intersection to American Canyon, according to spokesman Marc Renspurger. When officers found the Honda empty and crashed into a parked vehicle on Pepper Drive, an air search ensued that led to the arrest of Marco Antonio Cabrera, a 25-year-old Napa resident, Renspurger said.
Cabrera was booked into the Napa jail at 9 a.m. on suspicion of reckless evasion and leaving the scene of an accident, as well as for a probation violation, but was released at 10 the same morning, according to Renspurger.
Earlier, Cabrera was released from the Solano County jail April 25 after an arrest on suspicion of auto theft, and again May 3 following an arrest for investigation of home invasion, Renspurger said.
Plummer, the Napa Police chief, suggested that other steps to balance social distancing with robust enforcement may become necessary as California’s stay-at-home order continues.
“Is zero bail the best way, or do you go with a more robust house arrest program, or hire more personnel for the court system so people’s cases can go through the system a lot quicker?” he said. “Part of the purpose of the bail structure is to ensure that people show up in court when they’re supposed to. If we have nothing to ensure people show up in court, it becomes a revolving door and I don’t think it’s sustainable in the long term.”
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You can reach Howard Yune at 707-256-2214 or email@example.com.