BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The 93307 zip code has consistently high numbers for crime. This is the area between Highway 99 and Tejon Highway and between Highway 58, down all the way south of Arvin.
“If you’ve spent any time in the Southeast you will realize in the last 30 years not much has changed,” said Arleana Waller, leader of MLK community initiative.
Arleana Waller grew up in 93307, in Southeast Bakersfield. She’s been an outspoken advocate for economic development in the region.
“We’re in a park that has brown grass, the building behind us has been run down,” Waller said. “So if that’s the environment do you really expect the residents to look different?”
Gun violence and stabbings are common in the area. Last year, this zip code saw 22 homicides, that’s more than anywhere else in Bakersfield.
“We can’t do this in this community without resources,” Waller said. “We cant do this without partnership of our elected officials.”
Leticia Perez has represented southeast Bakersfield since 2013 on the County’s Board of Supervisors. She says only recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has pushed policy makers to look at city disparities.
“These kinds of projects require momentum,” Perez said. “They require a lot of buy-in, and they require a number of people who are willing to go against the status quo or the way things have always been. And so what we have see in the build up of the whole BLM movement was a lot of chatter and excitement and momentum building.”
MLK Elementary, the first ever STEM school in Kern County, opened in August 2020. The school has been closed due to the pandemic but Perez hopes it will improve the area’s high unemployment rates. For public transport- she says the county is working with GETBus to bring electric buses around MLK Park.
“We started beginning of 2018 looking at the assets of this community,” Perez said. “We have a brand new school, we have some community centers, a job training area and a youth job training area. We are going to connect those areas transportation wise to the MLK Park where we know there’s a huge need for transportation.”
Eric Arias was elected to city council last November to represent this region. He says recent changes in national and city leadership will allow for more progress.
“My fight is going to be in the upcoming budget process,” Arias said. “We know that the city has measure n monies. Which brings in about 80 million dollars of additional funding each year.”
Bakersfield residents pay taxes through Measure N, meant to improve public safety and quality of life. Arias says there’s recently been a big push to allocate a large part of Measure N funds to southeast Bakersfield.
“I think last year, about 60-70% of the crimes in gun violence was happening in and around Ward 1,” Arias said. “So my argument to them is if we really want to tackle some of public safety issues we’re facing, we would see a disproportionate amount of investment in southeast Bakersfield.”
The ultimate decision lies with the council in their discussion of the budget scheduled in May. Both Perez and Arias say the southeast will see improvement soon. We should all be on the lookout for these changes.