BY CHRISTINE L. PETERSON Californian web editor firstname.lastname@example.org
If you've ever come home to find your front door kicked in, utter fear coursing through your blood -- or hope and pray it never happens to you -- Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson has some insight for you.
"It's happening all over the place" and it's happening in broad daylight, the chief said Wednesday morning during an appearance on "First Look with Scott Cox."
Bakersfield Police Department's five most wanted
Police ask that anyone with information about the whereabouts of these five people call the BPD Warrant Fugitive Detail at 326-3842 or the BPD at 327-7111.
* Ocscar Rene Medina, 11/15/1983. He is wanted on a no bail warrant for murder, conspiracy, participating in a street gang, robbery and possession of a firearm by a felon. He is described as 5'8", weighing 170 pounds and having black hair and brown eyes.
* HC Bryant , 11/22/1971. He is wanted on a no bail federal grand jury indictment for distribution of cocaine base. He is described as 5'9", weighing 180 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
* Jerome Ryan Henderson , 7/31/1990. He is wanted for human trafficking. He is described as 6'5", weighing 210 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
* Gustavo Ubaldo Soria , 4/17/1970. He is wanted for murder with no bail. He may be in Mexico or traveling between Mexico and the United States. He is described as 5'11", weighing 210 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
* James Anthony Spencer Jr. , 2/28/1986. He is wanted for assault with a firearm, gang participation, conspiracy and carrying a concealed weapon. Bail is $500,000. He is accused of being involved in a gang-related shooting on Feb. 25 that resulted in a female being shot. He is described as 5'6", weighing 170 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
Source: Bakersfield Police Department
Williamson focused on the challenges of what he called "astronomical" property crimes, and noted his department filed about 3,000 more criminal cases last year than the year before. He noted that Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood's jails are full of very serious criminals, the result of state prison realignment programs that are forcing more criminals into county jails who in the past would have served a stint in state prison.
Simulcast host Scott Cox said it must be frustrating for law enforcement to catch someone, knowing in some cases in a week or so they could be out committing more crime. The public also sometimes incorrectly thinks 15 cops will instantly show up if they call police, he said.
"Keep your morale up" and keep serving the public, Williamson said he tells his officers and employees as they face these challenges.
The chief noted a burglary in progress would be a top priority call -- maybe your door is being kicked in right then, or your neighbors call in seeing it happen -- and that will get an officer to your home faster than an instance where you return to find your door's been broken in and you call police later.
Williamson said he tells his officers who encounter an upset or angry victim: "You have to understand that is the most important thing going on in their lives at that time."
And he had advice to help you protect yourself: Get involved in one of the more than 800 Neighborhood Watch programs, or start one in your area. Put up Neighborhood Watch signs. Get to know your neighbors. If someone comes to your door, ask from behind the closed, locked door who it is before deciding if you're going to open it. Get a good description of any suspicious person and any vehicles, including a license plate number.
Cox urged awareness, explaining he walks his neighborhood two to three times a day and knows if someone does not belong. And he said we're losing a sense of community, yet shouldn't be afraid to knock on a neighbor's door and say the dog was barking loudly at 3 a.m.
The chief even offered a personal example of awareness: Tuesday was his birthday, and he returned home with some gifts. He'd forgotten to bring them inside, so he went back out and retrieved them from his truck so they wouldn't be out.
They tackled a few other topics:
* The chief said 30 people are currently in a police academy, and the department just finished recruitment for another.
* Cox asked if the public can buy old police cars. Williamson said they're sold to an auction house -- but he believes there are police agencies that park decommissioned vehicles in parking lots as crime deterrents.
* About 40 new police cars are on order, and it takes about two weeks to outfit them once received.
* A Victims' Rights March with speakers will be held at 4:30 p.m. April 23 beginning at the Liberty Bell in front of Kern County Superior Court.
Law enforcement, Williamson said, is "inviting victims of crime to join us, and so they know they are not forgotten" -- anything from losing a family member to homicide to your door was kicked in and you "suffered a personal intrusion."