Homicide Tracker is part of KGET’s crusade for justice through data-driven journalism.
The profiles in Homicide Tracker spring from a simple premise: Every murder victim deserves a eulogy that reminds us he or she was someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister.
Other stories take a broad view that illustrates the scope of the problem: Since the year 2000, over 1,330 Kern County residents have been victims of homicide. Hundreds of murderers walk among us.
Homicide victims include murderers killed in their prison cells by other murderers. It includes gangsters killed while trying to kill other gangsters. It includes would-be killers shot down by police officers protecting the public.
But it also includes the innocent. It includes children killed by their parents, and parents killed by their children. It includes 90-year-old widows stabbed to death in their own homes and unborn children shot to death in the womb.
An on-going KGET study of local homicides since 2000 proved what might be expected: Homicide hits every age group, every income sector and every corner of the county, but is concentrated on young men in the poorer parts of town.
Our study continues to produce some less-expected statistics.
African-Americans, who make up less than 6 percent of Kern’s population, make up 20 percent of homicide victims. On a per capita basis, black Kern residents are 3.45 times more likely to be homicide victims than the population as a whole.
Our study uses the Kern County Coroner’s Office definition of homicide, which includes justifiable homicide. In 2015, 15 percent of Kern’s homicides were officer-involved shootings but that number dropped dramatically in 2015. Only 4 percent of homicides were officer-involved shootings in 2016 and 2017.
Countywide, about 60 percent of homicides remain unsolved but that number is much higher in some smaller cities.
If that figure is typical, it means more than 800 cases remain unsolved since 2000. It means hundreds of families have gone without justice and hundreds of killers have gone unpunished.
Most homicides happen in the county’s poorest ZIP codes. In 2015, the Delano ZIP of 93215 had 10 homicides. That went down in 2016 and 2017. During those years, Bakersfield’s 93307 and east Bakersfield’s 93305 were especially hard hit. The more affluent ZIPs did not go untouched, but the killings in 93311 and 93313 were domestic violence cases confined to families.
Homicide happens about every 85 hours in Kern County, but no one really tracks the bloody trail of grief that intentional death leaves in our county. The Coroner’s Office tracks the totals, Bakersfield Police knows the status of homicide within the city limits and the Sheriff’s Office has jurisdiction over out-of-town killings. The status of prosecutions is available on the Superior Court website.
There hasn’t been any place where all the information has been pulled together in a single user-friendly format and made available to the general public.
That is the purpose of Homicide Tracker.
We’re going to track every homicide in Kern County. We’re going to try to follow each case. We’re going to try to provide panorama coverage to a huge issue that usually is reported only in snapshots.