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Secret Witness helps solve crimes in Bakersfield and Kern County

Posted at 7:28 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 22:28:43-04

“Last year, homicides were down in Kern County, and this year they’re up from what they were last year," Cynthia Zimmer Kern County's District Attorney said. "It’s difficult with the pandemic to do some things that we normally do."

This is the reality of Kern County crime in the time of COVID-19.

The Kern County Sheriff's office told 23ABC that there have been 49 homicides in their jurisdiction so far this year, which is twice as many as this time last year.

When combined with the City of Bakersfield’s homicides numbers and other outlying law enforcement agencies… brings the total number of homicides in Kern County to 89 . In 2019, there were 66. Lieutenant Joel Swanson said it’s set to be a record-breaking year.

“This started for us back in January," Swanson said. "We’ve just had an increase every month in homicides.”

While there have been a number of gang shootings, KCSO said they have yet to determine if it’s the lead cause in homicides. A lot of cases this year are still under investigation, including a homicide in East Bakersfield overnight.

In addition to contacting the sheriff’s office(661-861-3110), Swanson says it’s the community itself that could assist law enforcement in solving crimes .

“Just due to where certain people live, it’s not the right thing to do for their neighborhood to talk to law enforcement to assist us with cases," Swanson said. "Secret witness allows that person to essentially remain anonymous but still provide information to help us in our cases.”

The DA said that while the Secret Witness Hotline (661-322-4040) is a huge help, it could be used more.

“We can’t solve crimes and prosecute offenders without witnesses, and unfortunately each year, we see about 50 percent of our homicides in Kern county remain unsolved,” Zimmer said.

Sgt. Robert Pair said that communities with law enforcement without civic engagement have even lower solving rates.

“And once people start to lose faith in police officers and law enforcement, ability to bring justice to people that arguably one of the most serious crimes or the most serious crime that can occur, then they further disengage from the process,” Pair said.

The Bakersfield Police Department said so far, they’ve solved 70 percent of the homicides they’ve investigated this year, while KCSO says their clearance rate is 25 percent.

Pair said it only takes a tidbit of information to set them on the right path to solve such crimes.

Tomorrow the DA and law enforcement will host a luncheon to raise money for the secret witness program. It's $10 per plate for the BBQ lunch.

The Voices for Victims BBQ is tomorrow from 11-to-2 on the corner of l street and Truxtun avenue. More details are on our website calendar on turnto23.com.

The sheriff’s office says it has received 63 secret witness tips this year so far.