BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Headlines last week warned of a 31% jump in homicides across California, mirroring similar increases in other states during the pandemic. Deeper in the details of the Department of Justice’s homicide report also showed that Kern County’s homicide rate was 12.7, the highest per capita rate in the state.
District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said Kern County is dealing with a “perfect storm” of issues driving up violence.
“It’s coming at us from all the angles, the pandemic had an effect, the governor and the legislature has an effect, the courts are having an effect, and we’re having a hard time keeping children out of gangs,” said Zimmer.
Zimmer accused Governor Gavin Newsom of leading “the charge of being soft on crime,” saying the release of 30,000 inmates combined with recent changes to law gave law enforcement a harder time last year. She also said court rulings make it harder to keep repeat offenders locked up or even convict certain defendants on gang-related crimes.
She also suggested the spike in shootings was fueled by more money on the streets, possibly even from initiatives meant to help people who struggled during the pandemic.
“There are a lot more illegal firearms,” said Zimmer. “They had illegal EDD money, drug money, stimulus checks.”
Pastor Manuel Carrizalez, with Stay Focused Ministries, said he went to over a dozen funerals because of a homicides last year.
“You could see the heartbreak in so many families,” said Carrizalez, a reformed man who works to help young people and ex-cons find better lives through Stay Focused Ministries. Carrizalez said there is a lot of “anger” right now on the streets, but he also believes young people need better mentors to keep them out of gangs and off drugs.
“We did an out reach in a neighborhood, there were 40 kids that raised their hands, saying they had no fathers,” Carrizalez said.
2021 is not looking much better. By June 30 Kern County had 66 homicides, which also includes some self-defense cases and 2 officer-involved shootings. That’s higher than the same point last year.