Local News

Tuesday, Jan 22 2013 12:02 AM

East Kern felonies decreased by 20 percent

The Kern County District Attorney's office released its report earlier this month determining that since the introduction of the state's prison realignment plan, there were 1,057 more felony criminal cases filed in the county in 2012 than the prior year.

That's a jump of around 15 percent countywide.

However, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Pafford, east Kern which includes the Tehachapi, saw a decrease in felony complaint requests from 2011 to 2012.

There were 237 less felony complaint request in 2012, which resulted in a 20 percent decrease.

The report, released on Jan. 8 by District Attorney Lisa Green was generated to address the mounting theory by law enforcement that there has been a significant increase in criminal activity following the implementation of Assembly Bill 109 back in October of 2011.

The purpose of the bill is to lessen prison overcrowding by sentencing inmates convicted of non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual crimes to county supervision rather than state prison. As a result, thousands of criminals have been released and thousands more never go to prison for their convictions.

In response to Green's report, Tehachapi Police Chief Jeff Kermode said the district attorney's findings confirm the comments he made while recently addressing the city council.

"I believe her comments provide solid numbers that help describe the countywide impact of realignment," he said. "The good news for us is that we have not seen the significant increase in violent crime that some other communities have experienced."

However, property crimes, such as theft and burglary did increase significantly over the past year in Tehachapi, and according to Kermode, thefts occurring at the residential and commercial levels, including thefts from storage units and unlocked vehicles almost doubled from 2011.

All the same, there is some good news, as the theft and burglary rates in Tehachapi have appears to have decreased over the past month.

Kermode attributes the drop to his department's strategy of maintaining a continuous focus on individuals who repeatedly commit crime, whether they are on probation, parole, or supervised release.

"As you have seen from recent arrests, the same small percentage of our residents continue to re-offend," he said. "As compared to focusing on 'hot spots.' those specific locations where crime repeatedly occurs, we are focusing on 'hot people,' those who people who re-offend."

But like many small law enforcement agencies around the country, Kermode's department often fights more than crime.

Shrinking budgets and maintaining personnel plague even the best police agencies, and currently Tehachapi is not only battling to keep criminals behind bars, but also a reduction in staffing as three of its officers are out because of either industrial or non-industrial disabilities.

Nevertheless, Kermode said his department has been keeping pace with a strong support from its reserve police officers.

It's that support that will continue to prove invaluable -- at least for now -- as the state's plan for reducing prison populations continues to dump hundreds of convicts, which instead of serving out the time for the crimes they have committed, are released back into the community.

MATTHEW MARTZ of the Tehachapi News contributed to this report.

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