While crime totals increased in Arvin in 2019 by 35 percent, the Arvin Police Department reported a decrease in homicides, rapes and robberies.
This is according to Arvin Police Chief Scot Kimble, who unveiled the department's annual crime report at this week's Arvin City Council meeting.
Homicides decreased from four in 2018 to three in 2019, Kimble said. He also reported that the number of rapes decreased from seven to three, as well as robberies from 28 to 16.
“To change (the crime numbers), we’ve had town hall meetings and have been staying as proactive as possible,” Kimble said.
Kimble added that establishing the department’s anonymous tip line in 2019 has curtailed certain crimes as well.
In Kern County, 2019 was the first in five years that homicides went down compared to the year prior.
“(Arvin’s decrease in homicides) matches what we saw throughout the county and we expect the (state crime) report to show later this year,” said Joseph Kinzel, a deputy district attorney and spokesman for the Kern County District Attorney's Office.
Three new full-time police officers and one additional reserve officer were hired by the Arvin Police Department in 2019, bringing the department’s total to 17 full-time officers and four reserve officers.
Despite the decreases in certain crime categories, property crimes increased by 42 percent, going from 319 in 2018 to 453 in 2019, according to Kimble.
“The increase in property crime is something we’re afraid we’re going to continue to see because of the reduced punishments for those crimes,” Kinzel said.
Kimble said property crimes can include thefts of items from a yard, someone’s car and burglaries.
“The homeless population (in Arvin) has had an effect on our crime rates, especially property crimes,” Kimble said.
Violent crimes also increased in 2019, rising 22 percent from 165 to 201. Kimble attributes that increase over the last several years to AB 109, which became effective in 2011.
AB 109 was created to reduce the prison population of California’s 33 prisons, according to the County of Los Angeles Probation. The legislation allows for current “non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex offenders” to serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prison.
“Some of those folks that are released early are not always reformed or educated enough to come back into society and do the right things and get employment,” Kimble said.
Kinzel acknowledged an increase in crimes in Kern County since AB 109 went into effect, referring back to punishment reductions.
“There’s really no way to target repeat offenders anymore when in the past (the punishment) would elevate after each offense,” Kinzel said. “When crimes have been reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, law enforcement reacts accordingly.”
Calls for service to the Arvin Police Department decreased from 11,219 to 10,678 in 2019. However, this does not mean there are fewer crimes being committed, according to Kimble.
“One reason why (the calls have decreased) is because we’re a migrant community and some of those folks do not have citizenship and there’s a concern among them that we’re connected with ICE even if they’re a victim of the crime,” Kimble said. “That’s a false perception, but it’s still a real perception in our community.”
Kinzel acknowledged legal status as playing a role in underreporting, but once again pointed the finger at reduced punishments.