BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Governor Gavin Newsom has previously called Kern County, “the murder capital of California.” That is exactly what Bakersfield Police Department Chief Greg Terry reported to the City Council Thursday afternoon as crime spiked again in Bakersfield.
Chief Terry says a primary factor is democratic reforms to California’s criminal justice system.
“We are arresting people, multiple times for offenses,” said Chief Terry.
Chief Greg Terry was joined by District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer to further explain the spike in crime.
“They are not in county jail anymore or in rehabilitation programs,” said Zimmer. “They are in the streets.”
In 2020, BPD reported 2,006 violent crimes. A year later, 2,078 were reported.
Property crimes rose by more than 1,000.
“Drug crimes contribute to homicides,” said Zimmer. “Drug deals went bad, the types of crime where we have someone buying and selling and it goes wrong.”
Kern County has 51 ZIP codes. In 2021, half of them accounted for every homicide in the county.
Data from 17 News’ Homicide Tracker showed there were 136 confirmed homicides in only 21 ZIP codes in 2021.
The most homicides in a single zip code for the year was 36–more than double the second most.
Those 36 homicides happened in ZIP code 93307. 93307 stretches from the edges of East Bakersfield out to Edison, goes south excluding Lamont, and tapers off all the way down to Mettler.
Chief Terry mentioned the reason for recidivism has to do with criminals being let loose and not having much follow-up.
“Those services are still available to individuals,” said Chief Terry. “When they get convicted or plea to something there is no longer something hanging over their head to mandate or to require them to participate in this treatment.”
According to Chief Terry, BPD’s average week in 2021 had, 5,619 emergency calls, 262 arrests, 199 traffic violations, and recovered about 90 vehicles.
BPD has established a partnership with Kern County Behavioral Health to divert emergency calls that may be a mental health crisis. In 2021, close to 400 calls were diverted to mental health experts.
“The more we can invest in the behavioral health aspect to abate and respond, the better we are off,” said Councilmember Andrae Gonzales.
BPD is also seeing employee retainment take a hit. In 2019, BPD made it their goal to hire 100 sworn officers, a goal they did not meet.
The great resignation, the pandemic, national protests following the death of George Floyd, and troubles with the state Department of Justice are some of the factors that made hiring difficult, according to City of Bakersfield Human Resources Director Christi Tenter.
“Back in 2011, we are at a 16-year average service,” said Tenter. “Today we are closer to 8 but the majority of employees have less than 5 years.”
You can find more detailed information on the deadliest areas in Kern County by clicking here.