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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Gang-related homicides and shootings dropped in 2013, but the number of Internet cafes went up late last year, a city council committee learned Thursday.
Gang-related homicides more than doubled from 7 in 2011 to 15 in 2012, before decreasing slightly to 12 in 2013, Bakersfield Assistant Police Chief Lyle Martin told the city's Safe Neighborhoods and Community Relations Committee.
After nearly doubling, from 38 in 2011 to 67 in 2012, gang-related shootings dipped slightly to 57 last year.
Bakersfield police Lt. Greg Terry said in an interview that police and other government groups have expanded their efforts working with community members to identify problems and resolve conflicts before violence results.
"We have partners in the partnership that are specifically going out and doing conflict resolution," Terry said, referring to the Bakersfield Safe Streets Partnership, a consortium of law enforcement, government and community organizations. "They're working in the streets, they're finding out who's got some beefs with some groups or between groups or with individuals to resolve these disagreements or conflicts so that violence doesn't occur."
In other business, committee members learned that the number of Internet cafes in Bakersfield rose from 13 in November to 14 today.
Bakersfield city officials believe that the cafes offer illegal gambling, and have informed cafe owners and landlords in writing, but are awaiting an appellate court decision before taking legal action.
An Assembly bill to outlaw Internet cafes in California, introduced last week by Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, could also offer a legal remedy if passed.
The committee also heard an impassioned plea from a local resident who called for a crackdown on vagrancy and prostitution in east Bakersfield.
"Union Avenue is pretty hard to look at, when you're carrying young ladies and gentlemen, all that rampant prostitution," said Bakersfield resident Devon Johnson, a driver for members of the Bakersfield Raiders and Team Prodigy, two athletic teams for at-risk youth. "Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard looks like a baby skid row. I know the community of Bakersfield can do better than that."
Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera, one of three council members who comprise the committee, asked city staff for an update at next month's meeting.
"I'm actually curious, too, because I drive down Union, too, and it's pretty obvious who's up to no good," Rivera said.