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Some Rural Northern California Counties Have Much Higher Arrest Rates Than Urban Ones, Report Finds

Bob Mofitt

People in some of the California's smallest, rural counties are much more likely to be arrested than those in big, urban ones, according to a report released on Friday by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.  

Lake, Siskiyou and Shasta counties had the highest arrest rates in the state with around 6,000 arrests per 100,000 people, more than double the lowest levels in Riverside, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties.

Brandon Martin, the report’s co-author, said factors from crime to poverty to education levels all influence arrest rates. While the report did not make any definitive findings on why rural counties tended to have higher rates, Martin said there is anecdotal evidence from local law enforcement.

“They’ll tell you that in a smaller population county, the law enforcement sort of has a good idea of who might be committing crimes, and so that might lead to higher arrest rates,” Martin said.

Kings County Sheriff David Robinson agreed. He said his deputies in the agricultural county south of Fresno know just about everyone.

“Good, bad and ugly, whether they are a criminal or a law-abiding citizen, you get to know the people,” Robinson said. “When a crime is committed, we really kind of know who to look for and who to look at in our neighborhoods because we’ve dealt with them typically on numerous occasions.”

Police in large cities deal with a more transient population – including tourists – making it impossible to get to know everyone, he added.  

The report also found women are arrested at higher rates in rural counties. Martin explained that’s largely because arrest rates for men have fallen faster than those for women.

Overall, the report found the statewide average arrest rate of 3,428 per 100,000 residents, is down from past decades.

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