BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Kern County hit a grim milestone this week. The area recorded its 113th and 114th homicides, shattering 2018’s record of 112 — with six weeks still to go in 2020.
The unfortunate record was set Wednesday night in east Bakersfield, near the Fastrip gas station at Niles and Fairfax. The victims are still officially unidentified, and the suspects still at large.
The homicides put Kern in company it didn’t want to join.
All across the America, cities are setting these morbid records and near records.
350 homicides in Houston thus far in 2020, up 46 percent from last year.
220 homicides in Dallas.
176 in Milwaukee.
168 in Cleveland.
144 in Columbus.
And approaching 900 in Chicago.
This is not how Bakersfield wanted to be recognized as a rising metropolitan area.
The homicides are as different as the identities of the victims themselves, but there are trends.
Although the average known age of the victims is 33, a third are 24 or younger.
And the vast majority are unsolved.
What’s going on? Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry spoke to KGET Thursday morning
“That’s the one of the challenging things for law enforcement in working with our communities to try to prevent these — is that very often they’re spontaneous events,” Terry said. “People run into each other, there’s an argument, it escalates very quickly, there’s weapons present, and a shooting occurs.
“We had two shootings here in the city of Bakersfield last night. Fortunately they didn’t result in a homicide. But we are seeing — if you look across the last several weeks, we’ve released a lot of information — our officers are seizing weapons and making arrests on almost a daily basis with individuals driving around, riding bikes, running around armed with firearms.
“And so we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of weapons that we are seizing across the city as well,” Terry said.
What fuels this spontaneous violence?
Frustration over covid-19 restrictions, an outgrowth of the civil unrest sweeping the nation, anger stemming from the nation’s political division, a tipping point in the increasingly easy access to firearms, or all of the above?
Whatever the cause, 114 homicide victims — and counting — are paying the price. With an average of one homicide every four days, Kern County is on track this year for 124 deaths at the hands of another.
These homicides have hit every corner of the county and every age group, from infant to 71. The most likely age range to be the victim of a homicide this year: 26, 27 and 28.