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As COVID-19 is on the rise in Kern County, law enforcement battles a record year for homicides

Posted at 6:11 PM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 11:17:35-05

KERN COUNTY, Calif. — As we fight through a pandemic that's caused issues with health and finances for many, law enforcement is combating what appears to be another possible record year for homicides in Kern County.

Kern County is just one homicide away from tying 2018's homicide record, and there are still about five weeks left till the year is over. 23ABC's Bayan Wang spoke to a few law enforcement officials who said the pandemic may be playing a role.

"The homicides have increased this year in Bakersfield."

If 2020 didn't already seem long enough, the final stretch of this pandemic-year may be the most telling for law enforcement. According to 23ABC's homicide tracker, 115 homicides have occurred in Kern County this year. That's nearly 20 more than 2019, just one shy of the record in 2018, and 16 more than in 2017.

"This is happening across the country," said Kern County's Deputy District Attorney Joe Kinzel.

Kinzel went on to say that multiple cities are seeing the same trends. Los Angeles tallied 300 homicides as of last week. The first time they hit that milestone in more than a decade.

"Unfortunately it's not just Kern County, it's not just California it is everywhere, so really the question is what is something that is affecting every part of the country and in 2020 the answer is in some manner it's going to be the coronavirus," added Kinzel.

Bakersfield Police Sergeant Robert Pair said the pandemic's restrictions have limited the police department's ability to use community organizations to mitigate violent crimes.

"We send out people to the community that have community context and are able to reach out to those that are at risk. Well with COVID-19, that's impacted our ability to do that."

While the homicide rate is on track to break another record in the county, there are some crimes that have been trending downwards. In Delano, crimes like robbery and burglary are down, and reports of auto theft may be the lowest they've been there.

"Some of that may be related to COVID because when people are home they are around their vehicles more often," said Delano Police Chief Robert Nevarez.

23ABC also reached out to the Kern County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Donny Youngblood was not able to comment Monday, but 23ABC is expected to have a statement from him in the coming days.