By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
Santa Paula matched a record for homicides in the city in 2013, a year that saw a sharp rise in the number of murders throughout Ventura County.
The 40 homicides countywide last year was nearly a 50 percent increase from the 27 homicides that occurred in 2012. That number was almost a similar jump from 2011 when there was a record low in the number of countywide homicides, only 14.
The deadliest years in Ventura County were 1974 and 1979, each with 59 homicides. The most recent surge in homicides before last year occurred in 2003, when 49 murders were recorded, including six in Santa Paula.
Santa Paula had six homicides in 2013 and two in 2012. Some reports note that Santa Paula had three homicides in 2012 but one fatal incident-a murder-suicide-occurred outside city limits. That same year one man was dropped off at Santa Paula Hospital with fatal stab wounds and a second man was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.
Last year there were six homicides in Santa Paula that started in June and occurred for five consecutive months before the last homicide of the year in December.
Suspects have been arrested in four of the cases, a man is being sought for one and so far Santa Paula Police have not identified the suspect in the other.
Oxnard had the highest number of murders in Ventura County at 15, followed by seven in Ventura-a sharp increase after the one murder that occurred in Ventura in 2012-and six homicides in Santa Paula.
There were four homicides in Simi Valley in which the suspect died after killing someone, including one officer involved shooting.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office investigated six homicides last year, including four fatal officer involved shootings, one involving a California Highway Patrol officer. Homicides under VCSD jurisdiction occurred in the unincorporated areas of Ventura, Fillmore, El Rio and Somis.
Port Hueneme had two homicides last year, including an officer involved shooting.
Based on its 30,000 population Santa Paula had the highest murder rate in Ventura County with one homicide per 5,000 residents; Oxnard, the largest city in Ventura County at about 200,000 residents had one murder per about 13,000 residents.
Ventura with its seven homicides in 2013 and approximately 108,000 residents had a murder rate of about one per 15,400 residents.