Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) – From 2019 to 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom presided over the largest yearly increase in homicides in California in 30 years.
According to preliminary death certificate data published by the California Department of Public Health, there were 2,300 homicides in California, a 27% increase – the largest year-over-year increase the state has seen in 30 years.
Primarily Black and Hispanic men between the ages of 15 and 34 were the majority of homicide victims, according to the data.
In 2020, there were 5.8 homicides per 100,000 residents, the highest rate California has seen since 2008.
From 2019 to 2020, Black homicides increased by 36%, Hispanic homicides by 30%, Caucasian homicides by 15%, and Asian homicides by 10%.
The majority of victims were between the ages of 15 and 34 years old, accounting for a 31% increase. In 2019, 900 people in this age category were homicide victims compared to 1,175 in 2020.
Men were five times as likely to be murdered than women. However, both genders saw increases: male victims increased by 30% in 2020, female victims increased by 14%.
Among California’s 10 most populous counties, the sharpest increases were reported in Alameda County (57%), followed by Fresno (44%), Sacramento (36%) and Los Angeles (32%).
Reynaldo Reaser, executive director of Reclaiming America’s Communities Through Empowerment, suggests that one reason for increased crime was boredom. He told U.S. News that because of the state shutdown last year, youth were not able to participate in sports leagues, gang mediation and youth development in impoverished neighborhoods.
“And so, having nothing to do – no programs, no sports, no facilities open – the only thing they could focus on is each other,” Reaser said.
Kings County Sheriff David Robinson, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, says the stay-at-home orders contributed to increased violence but so also did fewer officers in the field and more people being released from prison.
Law enforcement officials who got COVID-19 led to a reduced patrol force, Robinson notes. But as part of the state shutdown, Newsom ordered that more inmates be released from prison as part of his amended state of emergency declaration in July.
In March 2020, the state’s prison reduction totaled roughly 10,000, and another estimated 8,000 inmates were eligible for release by the end of August 2020.
Robinson says he anticipates new data will show a correlation between those released from prison and increased homicides.
In addition to the inmates released last year, Newsom announced another 76,000 in the state’s prison system, including repeat felons, would be eligible for early release.
Newsom’s management of the nation’s largest corrections system is cited as one reason for Californians seeking to recall him. While millions of Californians were waiting for unemployment benefits, the state of California sent roughly $400 million in fraudulent unemployment payments to state prisoners.
More than $42 million in unemployment and relief money paid by the California Employment Development Department went to out-of-state prison and jail inmates, according to a report. Inmates in approximately 33 of California’s 58 county jails were allegedly involved with filing the potentially fraudulent claims.
In total, under Newsom, California paid $4 billion in reportedly fraudulent coronavirus relief funds in 2020, according to an analysis conducted by Sacramento-based Pondera Solutions, a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters.
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