Fewest homicides in Kern County in four years

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KERN COUNTY (KGET)— The number of homicides in Kern County for 2019 marks the lowest in four years. According to our KGET Homicide Tracker, there were 96 reported homicides this year. 

Sunday’s shooting in South Bakersfield at the 1900 block of Missouri Avenue was the county’s last homicide of the year. Unlike many cases, there was an immediate arrest following Sunday’s fatal shooting. Kern County Sheriff’s Office arrested 49-year-old Jose Velazquez and recovered the gun at the scene.

According to our KGET Homicide Tracker, the city of Bakersfield recorded 53 homicides this year, 28 of them taking place in east Bakersfield. Other parts of Bakersfield have also been plagued with violence. This year there were 12 homicides alone in south Bakersfield.

Smaller communities in Kern County also contributed to this year’s homicide count. Delano’s smaller community of just over 50,000 residents (compared to Bakersfield roughly 400,000 residents) saw 10 homicides. 

The increase in violence towards the end of the year compelled Delano Police Chief Robert Nevarez to launch the Gun Violence Response Operation after two homicides within one week of one another took place in October. The operation aimed to send a direct message to gang members who are considered at fault. 

“We want them to know  that we’re out there in force,” Nevarez said in a press conference in October. “We are out there addressing gang members aggressively and hopefully in doing so we send a message.” 

Gun violence continues to take the lives of many residents of Kern County. According to our KGET Homicide Tracker, of 2019’s 96 total homicides, 72 were due to fatal shootings. 

On Monday, the District Attorney’s office reported 90 homicides in Kern County. Despite the DA’s numbers, our KGET Homicide Tracker has the names of 96 victims.

“The reduction in violence is encouraging, but there is still more work to be done,” District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said in the release. I will continue to dedicate our efforts to investigate and prosecute homicide crimes and get the killers off our streets and into prison, where they belong.”

New technology has been brought in to reduce the number of shootings and gang related activity. In March 2018, ShotSpotter technology was installed across the city. The technology helps officers pinpoint locations of shots fired in a coverage area. Most of the sensors are placed in crime-ridden neighborhoods like east and south Bakersfield, but there have been discrepancies with the technology since its incorporation.

An assessment released by Cal State University of Bakersfield and BPD in November concluded that Shot Spotter technology didn’t necessarily reduce gang violence.  It did, however, improve response times. Getting victims immediate medical attention is critical in order to prevent fatalities. 

BPD understands that Shot Spotter technology is only part of the solution to reducing gun violence in the city. BPD Public Information Officer, Nathan McCauley reiterates that community collaboration is key to making real change. 

“The people and what goes on there are still our most valuable resources in being able to solve a lot of these crimes,” McCauley said.

In 2018, Kern County ranked number one in homicides in California for the second straight year with a record of 113 homicide victims.

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