Ventura County, Ca., north of Los Angeles, has been ranked among the most crime-free urban areas in the nation. But it’s homicide total more than doubled this year. The Los Angeles Times says law enforcement authorities blame the trend on state budget cuts and increasing gang conflicts. Some 49 homicides have been reported in the county, the largest number since 59 in 1979. There were 24 homicides last year.
“It’s an explosion in violent crime,” said Undersheriff Craig Husband. He said the last deadly surge was in the early 1990s, when cocaine saturated the area. Last year, the county reported fewer crimes per person than any other area in the West with 50,000 or people.
Faced with funding problems, Ventura County officials worry that things may get worse. The sheriff’s department has cut 110 jobs in a year, many involving gang suppression and other enforcement and intervention programs. “A lot of times, people indicate you can’t predict homicides,” Husband said. “In this particular case, I think it is directly attributable to the phenomenon of growing gang violence.”
Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez believes the rise is the fault of prison parolees, often gang members. “I’m not trying to minimize the importance of human life, but the people that were killed or doing the killing this year are individuals with very tenuous, dangerous lifestyles,” he said. “They were often parolees, drug dealers or someone involved in gangs. This is not like the random killer on the loose.”