Fresno County district attorney discusses 2021 unsolved crime rates, rising retail thefts across California

Local News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Crimes in Fresno are going unsolved in 2021, according to crime reports obtained through a public request act from the Fresno Police Department.

The reports reveal that only 13% of 580 shootings have ended in an arrest this year.

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp says witness cooperation is vital to solving crimes and played a major role in the investigation of a teen’s murder three years ago.

With the help of witnesses, authorities were able to gather vital evidence that eventually led a jury to find Joseph Espinoza guilty of murdering 17-year-old Nick Kauls in 2018.

Smittcamp says Espinoza may have never been identified if it wasn’t for information provided to authorities by witnesses.

Prior to Kauls’ murder, Smittcamp says Espinoza had attempted to rob several other people throughout the day.

Those victims were able to provide authorities with the information they needed to link Espinoza to Kauls’ murder since no direct evidence implicating him in the crime was left at the scene.

Smittcamp says the guilty verdict has brought Kauls’ mother a small sense of peace after the murder of her son, knowing that Espinoza wouldn’t be able to take away anyone else’s child.

“It’s every parent’s nightmare to have their innocent child taken from them,” said Smittcamp. “This was a case that was so senseless, and so unfair.”

On the subject of recent massive retail thefts in the Bay Area, Smittcamp says the issue isn’t anything new in the state since the passing of Prop 47.

In 2014, California voters passed Prop 47, raising the amount considered to be a felony shoplifting offense from $400 to $940.

“The mass amount we’ve seen now in the Bay Area with the 30 people is unheard of,” explained Smittcamp. “But this storming of retail businesses has been happening in smaller numbers since the passing of Prop 47.”

While the public should be enjoying the holiday shopping season, Smittcamp says the flash mob-style retail robberies are leaving shoppers on edge.

“This isn’t just about Louis Vuitton or some high-end department store losing hundreds of thousands of dollars of inventory, this is about shaking people, this is about shaking people’s confidence,” Smittcamp said. “This is the time of year where people want to be out doing holiday shopping and buying gifts for each other.”

Smittcamp says catching and prosecuting retail thieves can be difficult, due to the fact that they often wear disguises during the crime.

She says crime rates are also being fueled by the state’s $0 bail policy, put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic to help curb positive case rates in jails.

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