A man was arrested, cited, and released three times in the same day by police in Glendora. Allegedly, the man was stealing vehicles and other merchandise when he was arrested by police. Due to California’s new “zero-bail” initiative taking place in counties across the state, arrestees suspected of committing crimes are generally cited and released (provided the crime they committed wasn’t violent and qualifies for citation release under Prop 47).

In April, the California Judicial Council established a new policy which set bail at zero for most misdemeanor and low-level felonies to keep the jail population under control during the corona virus pandemic. In enacting the new policy, officials probably assumed that with so many people in their homes, there would be fewer opportunities to commit crimes. In some respects they were right, as certain types of crime have fallen significantly since the state-wide orders to stay home. However, fewer people out and about means fewer eyes on the street, which can be a welcome change for an opportunistic criminal looking to make a few bucks without doing anything violent.

While the new policy is certainly helping to keep the jail population low, it’s doing so in a way that officials probably didn’t intend.

The suspect in the case above was first arrested Wednesday at about 8:30 am after a witness reported him trying to break into vehicles. When police arrived at the scene of the alleged crime, the suspect was driving off in what may have been a stolen vehicle. He was arrested and subsequently searched. During the search, police discovered stolen property and narcotics with the suspect. Even though the suspect was arrested, police were unable to keep him in custody due to the new policy, so he was cited and released.

An hour later, police received another report a man walking through a neighborhood carrying a cardboard box, into which he would place various items he stole from people’s yards. Officers responded and found the same suspect with stolen items in his possession. He was once again arrested, cited, and released.

The third arrest occurred just before 9 pm on Wednesday evening after police received a call about a stolen vehicle. Glendora police, with the help of the LASD and CHP, were able to track down the vehicle on the 10 freeway. After a short pursuit, police were able to perform the stop and arrest the suspect for the third time. He was taken to the station, issued a citation, and released.

While the enactment of the new policy is technically temporary, it provides a glimpse into a possible future where bail has been eliminated. The point of keeping people in custody was never to try and extort money out of them – it was to ensure that someone who may be responsible for committing a crime is available to appear in court, and won’t run off to avoid punishment. Bail allows a defendant to secure their release and (importantly) provides a monetary incentive to return to court at the appointed date and time.

With no power to hold on to suspects after they’ve been arrested, it’s easy for someone to walk out of the police station and continue to offend without consequence.