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Homicide rate drops in county
• Sheriff cites new efforts
homicide generic art 2024

Stanislaus County law enforcement officials are celebrating the news that the homicide rate has continued to decline to the lowest level in a decade.

The trend of declines in homicides seems to be a statewide trend, as illustrated by decreases in Los Angeles County and Fresno. 

Stanislaus County saw 41 homicides in 2017 but in 2023 that number dropped to 17. That includes all murders in the nine cities and unincorporated area of the county.

Statistics supplied by the California Department of Justice showed that 33 homicides were investigated in Stanislaus County in 2020, 26 in 2021 and 27 in 2022.

Being that it’s a small city, homicide rates in Ceres continue to fluctuate from year to year, making it difficult to interpret any patterns. For example, Ceres Police worked three homicides in 2020, four in 2021 (both pandemic years) but none in 2022. That changed in 2023 when detectives were confronted with two homicide cases.

Modesto Police reported 16 homicide cases in 2020, nine in 2021, 10 in 2022 and eight in 2023.

Only two cities in Stanislaus County were homicide free in 2023 – Oakdale and Newman.

On a KFIV radio show broadcast over the weekend, Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Kirkse credited the lower homicide rate to specific programs initiated within his department.

“The intent is to identify these criminals that have violent tendencies,” said Sheriff Dirkse. “These guys are on probation, parole, they’re in jail, prison and when they get out (we) monitor them to the best of our ability and legally and all of that. But if they’re out there doing anything at all to violate either the terms of their parole, probation or a new law violation, we go hunt them down and take them back to jail – like intentionally.”

He added that studies show that criminals with violent tendencies eventually have a good chance of committing a homicide “whether that was the intended act or not.”

He also credited his department’s aggressive crackdown on illegal marijuana grows.

“Every year we have at least one, two, three homicides that are directly associated with illegal grows so the more we can eliminate we eliminate that.”

Typically those shootings occur when someone attempts to sneak onto property where the illegal cannabis operation takes place to steal product and owners use deadly force to protect their crop.

What has also helped reduce homicides, Sheriff Dirkse said, is that his department has equipped every deputy with a tourniquet that could be used to prevent a shooting victim from dying before paramedics arrive to  administer medical treatment.

“I think it ended up being one every other week last year. We’ve had people shot but for it to be a homicide they actually have to die so the fact that they don’t die is helpful but we attribute that to advanced training for deputies.”