Kern County leads California with highest homicide rate

KBAK/KBFX photo, file

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Kern County had the highest rate of homicides per capita in California last year, according to a new report by the Department of Justice. That rate is seeing a sharp increase this year, according to the Kern County Sheriff's Office.

At Mission Family Mortuary in Bakersfield, co-owner Ray Mish, who's been in the mortuary business for over 70 years, said he prepared more funerals for homicide victims last year than he can remember.

"There's definitely a big increase," Mish said.

KCSO says it's difficult to know why the rate is so high, and why it's going up, but thinks the poverty rate and California's prison reform laws reducing sentences for violent crimes plays a role.

This year KCSO reported 31 homicides, more than double the number at this time last year.

"Even last year was a very taxing year for not only our community members on a daily basis ,but for our staff as well," Larry McCurtain, chief deputy at KCSO, said.

The District Attorney's office saw the most homicides in the gang unit last year, as well as five children murdered, and six DUI-related homicides.

"The biggest concern is the loss of life" Lisa Green, Kern County District Attorney said.

"Victims' family members, I really feel for them. But from an official perspective, it's having the manpower, the bodies in the office to handle the homicide cases. We had only two people handling DUI murder cases," Green said.

Similarly McCurtain said more staffing for KCSO would help combat the rising homicide rate. He hopes more childhood education could keep Kern County safer in the future.

"I think awareness, as it comes to the gang related homicides, is early intervention with our children, education with our community, just everyone become involved and aware of the problems we have," McCurtain said.

A problem that Ray Mish says is far too common.

"I don't like to take care of families of loved [that have] been murdered," Mish said. "If only those people would realize if it happened to them, what would happen to their relatives?"

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