Crime has increased since the beginning of the year, according to a presentation given by Ridgecrest Police Chief Ron Strand last week.

Crime has increased since the beginning of the year, according to a presentation given by Ridgecrest Police Chief Ron Strand last week.
Strand provided the council and members of the public with an overview of crime in the city since October.
While overall Part One crimes, or violent crimes, have decreased 17 percent between 2006 to 2012. Those crimes include murder, rape, robbery and assaults, shootings, attempted murders and others of that nature.
However, in the last year, those crimes have increased by 10 percent, especially in property-related crimes.
“As of October this year, we have seen a smaller increase this year of little over 4 percent,” Strand said.
Strand said the crime increase is not limited to Ridgecrest. Agencies throughout Kern County have seen an uptick in violent crimes.
“I would suspect that most of those agencies are still seeing those increases this year,” Strand said.
Burglaries in 2012 shot up by 20 percent and 11 percent rise in thefts. In 2013, those numbers have apparently dropped by 5 percent, Strand said.
“However it is still more than what it was in 2011,” Strand said.
The significant issues lie in crimes against persons, which Strand said the police department in 2012 noticed, 13 percent in simple assaults and 14 percent increase in robberies.
As of October of this year, though, the city in 2013 has seen a 61 percent spike in aggravated assaults, including assault with a deadly weapon and rapes.
Robberies were also up 29 percent as well, as of October.
Strand said that since the passage of Assembly Bill 109, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Prison Realignment Act, RPD has become aware of significant overcrowding in Kern County’s jails.
AB 109 went into effect in 2011, and effectively passed responsibility for housing non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual offender inmates to the county and local municipalities. It was done in part to comply with a federal order to reduce the California population by 137.5 percent by the end of 2013.
Because of a federal cap on inmate population, Kern County’s jail system has reached its maximum capacity, with some prisoners going in and others being released early or on probation.
“AB 109 has sped up this process and in my opinion has created a revolving door,” Strand said. “We are having to deal more and more with people not serving the time they were sentenced to serve.”
Additionally, watered down drug sentencing and felony laws combined with limited options for rehabilitation have added pressure.
Most Kern County facilities for rehabilitation, Strand said, are located in the Bakersfield area. This includes job placement services, home searches, and drug treatment programs.
“If anyone in this community wants to avail themselves of those services, they have to go to Bakersfield, which means they probably aren’t seeking out those services,” Strand said.
Strand said RPD has noted individuals on sustained drug use in the community as a result of this outlet.
“We’re noticing more people using drugs,” Strand said. “In the past, if we picked someone up for drug use, they would go to jail, stay there a while and least dry out for a little while … we’re not seeing that anymore.”
He said “there is no intervention of their use of drugs at this point and time.”
Strand noted the drugs in the community “run across the gamut” in types of use.
“Methamphetamine has always been an issue,” Strand said. “Of course, now with somewhat watering down of the drug laws, any time there is a profit to drugs, there’s always going to be people that want to control it … and that means subsequent violence.”
Both Strand and Councilwoman Lori Acton mentioned that some solutions for housing prisoners are coming, especially in California City.
A private prison company is leasing its facility in Cal City beginning 2014, which will increase bed spaces by 2,200 people.
Acton inquired about one of the local resources, Hope Recovery Center, a faith-based outpatient treatment program for addictions and other ailments.
Strand said that Hope Recovery, like most other nonprofits, is looking for funding.
“When and if that funding comes in, they can expand,” Strand. “From what I understand, they are operating on a skeleton crew.”
Councilman Steven Morgan challenged the community to become increasingly involved in activities to thwart crime.
“What I’m talking about is the things that the city has offered, such as neighborhood watch, increasing our Police and Community Together group, being involved with your local police department,” Morgan said, “and making sure that if there is something suspect going on that people notify the city so we can go look at it.”