Kern County has the highest murder rate in the state in 2018
In recent years, Kern County has recorded the highest murder rate in California, District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said.
“We make the questionable distinction… Over the past few years, we have the No. 1 per capita homicide rate in California,” Zimmer told the China Lake Rotary Club last week.
Kern County tops the list with 11.1 homicides per 100,000 population in 2018, Zimmer said. The next highest was Humboldt County with 8.1. San Bernardino County was ninth at 5.8 and Los Angeles was tenth at 5.5.
Zimmer became DA in 2019. That year the rate fell to 9 per 100,000, she said. “It was the first time our murder rate has declined in five years.”
Records are published after all data has been collected, making the 2018 report the most recent. Figures for 2020 are not yet available, but the homicide rate has reached a new high during the pandemic.
âWe had more homicides than ever. We had 127 homicides last year,â Zimmer said.
It is not yet clear how Kern County will rank against the rest of the state in more recent statistics.
âI don’t know what’s going to happen in 2020 because crime has increased everywhere,â she said.
Zimmer attributes Kern County’s high murder rate to criminal street gangs and the county’s five jails.
âWe have a horrible problem with criminal street gangs here in Delano, Arvin, Lamont and East Bakersfield,â she said. The majority of homicides in Kern County are linked to gangs, according to Zimmer.
âWe also have five prisons. [There are] more prisons in Kern County than anywhere else. So if there is a murder that happens in a prison, it goes into our statistics and people kill each other in prison, “she said.
Why such a high crime rate in Kern County?
Zimmer also attributed the high crime rate to state laws such as AB109 which passed in 2011 and prop. 47 in 2014, which Zimmer all described as âsoft on crimeâ laws.
Kern County has high rates of drug use, teenage births, low high school graduation rates, and gangs – all of which contribute to crime, according to Zimmer.
Kern County has also seen a dramatic increase in homelessness in recent years, Zimmer added.
She attributed this at least in part to AB109 eliminating jail terms for many offenses, instead sending sentenced inmates to the county jail where they will likely see early release due to overcrowding.
She also questioned the “dilution” of the law of the three strikes.
“The drug owner can’t go to jail, so no drug addiction. Drug dealers don’t go to jail anymore. They go to the county jail.”
Another problem is fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid, which causes drug overdoses when used to make methamphetamine.
âWe see kids dying, everyone,â Zimmer said. “The whole gamut. Drug use runs across all socioeconomic areas and people get fentanyl in their methamphetamine, they don’t know what’s in it and they overdose.”
“Crime exploded during the pandemic”
The prosecutor’s office stopped conducting jury trials in April and May 2020 and sent most of the employees home. The office continued to file cases and hold preliminary hearings and court hearings at a much slower pace.
âIn June, we came back because we were essential and we felt we couldn’t just stay the jury trials,â Zimmer said. As a result, the office conducted 106 jury trials during the pandemic – the highest number in the state, Zimmer said.
âCrime has exploded during the pandemic,â Zimmer said.
She attributed this to multiple causes, including the release of 30,000 inmates or a quarter of the inmates of the Department of Corrections.
Zimmer also blamed changes in the bail system, the closure of physical schools and fewer officers on the streets due to COVID-19 for causing more crime.
She also said that criminals buying guns and drugs with the proceeds of the state’s EDD fraud contributed to the crime rate in the county, as well as protests and funding for the police movement to discourage them. people to pursue careers in law enforcement.
Zimmer said there was “a huge increase in violent crime over the past year. Not just in Kern County, but in every metropolitan city in the United States.”
“I was not going to make businessmen, businesswomen, criminals”
Zimmer said she refused to prosecute bars and restaurants that had been ticketed for public safety concerns from the State Department of Alcohol Control during the pandemic.
“I was not going to make businessmen, businesswomen, criminals,” she said.
She added that such cases would be difficult to prove due to the rapidly changing demands of the state.
“Dine inside, dine out. It was really hard for restaurants to obey the laws. There was no evidence that a restaurateur did not comply with public safety concerns.”