BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — 23ABC continues to follow the murder case of a 10-year-old girl in Arvin who is just the latest child to be killed by gun violence. Although police haven’t said whether it’s gang-related, gang violence continues to be an ongoing issue within Kern County.
Gang violence is an ongoing issue across the nation but also in Kern County and unfortunately, children continue to be impacted by this violence.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood says violence, in general, has increased over the past few years and that can be due to a number of reasons. But he says one is that gangs are growing and becoming bolder.
“As an example in Arvin, we had a drive-by shooting where a 10-year-old was killed and a 12-year-old was wounded. I don’t need to know a lot about that case to tell you that is probably a gang-related incident.”
Youngblood says gang violence has impacted children because oftentimes, gang members do not care who’s around when opening fire into a crowd.
“Gang instances, gang shooting seem to be somewhat sociopathic. It's like they don’t care what happens to their fellow human beings whether it be a child or not. It doesn’t seem to matter to them.”
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH SHERIFF YOUNGBLOOD:
in 2017, 5-year-old Kason Guyton was shot and killed in Bakersfield while in the backseat of a car. The driver of the car was a member of a gang. And last July an 11-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl were shot and killed in Delano at a birthday party due to gang0-related violence.
“We have seen children killed and injured by gun violence," said Sgt. Robert Pair of the Bakersfield Police Department. "Some of the juveniles that have been killed are specifically targeted. Some are collateral damage.”
Sgt. Pair says this year alone two children in the Bakersfield area have already died due to gang-related violence.
“Typically on an average year, our homicide rate runs to about 50 percent being considered gang-involved, so that’s roughly about half of the murders each year.”
Sgt. Pair also adds that gang violence tends to increase because oftentimes, people feel the need to retaliate when a shooting happens.
“Violence that we typically see is cyclic in nature and so there will be a shooting targeting one gang and there will be a retaliatory shooting and that will go back and forth and that kind of elevates and spikes.”
Sgt. Pair says the community needs to come together to combat this issue so children can stop being caught in the middle.
“We can’t be naïve and think it’s just going to disappear. And we can’t take a unilateral approach, and so it really requires a community response to say enough is enough. How many kids have to die? It’s ridiculous.”
In 2019, KCOS eliminated its gang unit due to a lack of budget and not being able to recruit new members. Sheriff Youngblood says there are still a lot of vacancies in patrol so there are currently no plans in the near future to bring back the task force.