BAKERSFIELD,Calif. — On Wednesday, Kern County Sheriff's department announced that it is eliminating its gang unit.
Sheriff Donny Youngblood says due to the lack of resources and recruits that the gang unit at KCSO will be no more.
This is a result of having to downsize and the department hasn’t been able to maintain personnel. Youngblood attributes this to KCSO being one of the lowest paid departments in California.
“Over the last several years we have gotten smaller and smaller,” said Youngblood. “We are unable to recruit people; they are leaving the service and for other agencies. People are retiring and we are having to fill those gaps.”
Only three are currently assigned to the gang unit and will assigned elsewhere.
“We thought we had a solution in the last election when we put a one percent sales tax on the ballot,” Youngblood said. “We are now in a position where we will even take a one and half percent sales tax to get anywhere where we need to be.”
Youngblood adds there is without a doubt a problem with gangs in our area and wants to let gangs know that the department will still be focused on them.
“The task force at one time was almost 20 people we are now down to 12 or 13 and half of those are vacant,” Youngblood said. “We have to keep them vacant for salary savings so there really isn't a gang task force as we knew.
Joseph Kinzel, deputy district attorney says that the gang task force has been a valuable resource to the department for years and has been a great service.
“The Sheriff department has been strained for a long time,” said Kinzel. “We are starting to see the effects of this and its important when we have a county where gang related crimes relate to a majority of our homicides.”
Youngblood believes that the situation will continue to get worse before it gets better.
“You have to be trained to be a witness in a gang trial and we will have to rely on the Bakersfield police department or other agencies, but this will be problematic for us,” Youngblood said.
Despite the gang unit being no longer Sheriff Youngblood says that they will still focus on local gangs and that more special units will most likely be eliminated in the future.