According to a report by the FBI, 2020 was the deadliest year in California since 2007, with homicides increasing by 31%. Public safety should be our priority, but we’ve been moving in the wrong direction.
In California, 28% of homicides last year were gang-related, seven percent were the result of domestic violence. Minority populations suffered the most as Hispanics accounted for 45% of homicide victims, and African Americans, 31%. The homicide rate in 2019 was the lowest since 1966, making last year’s spike all the more significant. On the other hand, property crimes dipped, possibly because more people were home.
This region wasn’t immune to the rising violent tide. Murders in San Diego County increased by nearly 29%, and aggravated assaults increased by more than 600 cases. Escondido, Oceanside, Carlsbad and San Diego were among cities that saw increases in violent crime.
The reasons are complex, and debatable. Job loss and the mental stress caused by shutdowns and stay-at-home orders were likely big contributing factors. Mass de-incarceration and decriminalization of many crimes previously considered felonies had to have an effect, and efforts to defund the police, or decrease their numbers, certainly weren’t helpful.
We need to ensure the police and our entire criminal justice system have the resources and training necessary for public safety. We also must get smarter about dealing with underlying causes of crime, including adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), traumas, drug abuse and addiction. My bill, AB 653, creates a Medication-Assisted Treatment grant program so that incarcerated persons both on parole from state prison or currently in county jail receive the counseling and treatment needed to break the cycle of drug abuse, leading to less crime. AB 653 passed the Assembly unanimously, and is now pending in the Senate.
This rising tide of violence must be reversed. Public safety is government’s primary responsibility!