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Monday, Apr 21 2014 07:33 PM

Gang homicides are down, but violence continues

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

The number of gang-related homicides and shootings was down during the first three months of this year compared to the same time last year, although a recent spate of violence has erased much of that positive trend, a Bakersfield police official said Monday.

Bakersfield police Lt. Joe Mullins said the city had 16, or possibly 17, gang-related shootings and one homicide during the first three months of 2014, compared with 24 shootings and eight homicides during the same period last year. There were 12 shootings and two homicides during the first quarter of 2012.

Gang-related shootings have jumped to 25 during the past three weeks, however, Mullins told the Bakersfield Safe Streets Partnership at its first meeting of the year, held at the Larry E. Reider Education Center.

Mullins cautioned the group, which encourages gang members to change their lives with positive choices and serves as a connection point for social services, to consider the randomness of these crimes.

"Very rarely is anything ordered. It's primarily momentarily in the heat of passion, or someone carrying a gun looking for anyone from that particular group," Mullins told the gathering, which included former Kern County Supervisor Karen Goh and Ward 2 Councilman Terry Maxwell, in whose area the meeting occurred.

"It's the reasons young men do anything -- because their friends are doing it or they're being encouraged to do it," Mullins added.

Maxwell said afterward he thought the group's periodic prayer walks in areas affected by gang violence, and call-ins -- semi-official get-togethers to provide positive reinforcement to known gang members -- could have an impact.

"These kids don't know that they have value," Maxwell said. "Something like that is a tremendous influence. I do buy into that and I know that it can be very positive."

Other recent statistics dating to March 28 and released Friday in City Manager Alan Tandy's weekly informational memo to the mayor and the Council show auto thefts in Bakersfield fell more than 8 percent in 2013 compared to 2012. The trend continued this year with the number of stolen vehicles reported in January and February plummeting more than 25 percent compared to the same period in 2013.

The statistics, provided by Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson, show the city had just 386 vehicle thefts during January and February, compared with 516 in the first two months of 2013.

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