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Crime down, but still affected by Prop 47

Orange County thieves have taken to strolling residential streets at night, tugging on car doors. When one opens, they rummage inside for valuables. Sometimes, if they spot something worth the trouble, they’ll smash a window to snatch it.

Car burglary is an old routine, but police say it spiked in 2015 in Orange County and, according to new data compiled by The Orange County Register, held near those levels last year.

It’s also what brought Sgt. John Radus and a group of volunteers to Fullerton’s Woodcrest neighborhood recently to walk door-to-door. The face-to-face canvasing was part of a broader revival of crime prevention efforts that meld high-tech analysis with less glamorous, labor-intensive traditions of personally tending to local police beats.

Moving down a tree-shaded side street in a single-family neighborhood with a legacy of gang troubles, Radus and the others handed out flyers warning residents to keep their doors locked and valuables out of site, and to call police if they see something suspicious.

Radus, like many street cops and police chiefs, says the spike in property crime is a direct result of Proposition 47. They argue community-centric policing is necessary because the state measure, which passed three years ago to reduce some felony theft and drug offenses to misdemeanors, has had the unintended effect of making it hard to keep many low-level offenders behind bars.

Researchers caution that no studies have made that link, and warn that police have a history of demonizing laws they see as harmful but later are found to have no impact on crime. FBI statistics also present a less certain picture on Prop. 47, as changes in crime rates across California’s major cities varied widely in the first half of 2016.

Overall, crime in Orange County dipped by 4 percent last year after jumping by 23 percent in 2015, the Register analysis shows. At the same time, burglaries and aggravated assaults defied the trend, continuing to…

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