Shootings in Los Angeles are rising at a troubling pace, even as overall crime has fallen during the coronavirus era.
From Jan. 1-Nov. 14, there were 1,106 shooting victims in the city of Los Angeles, a 32.1% increase from the same time last year, when 837 people were shot, according to Los Angeles Police data. This also marks a 25% increase over the same timeframe in 2018.
Shooting victims in Los Angeles, Jan.1-Nov. 14, 2020
“This increase is of concern to us,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said on Nov. 10 at the weekly meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission, the appointed civilian panel that oversees the department. “We see it concentrate the most in the central to southern portions of the city. The city’s plan on responding to this increase in violence is to continue our work and continue our data-informed policing strategies by placing our resources in areas seeing high levels of violence.”
The rise in shootings, predictably, coincides with an increase in murders. Homicides rose 20% from Jan. 1-Oct. 31 this year over the same period in 2019, according to the LAPD. Over the past weekend, Los Angeles recorded its 300th murder. This is the first time the city has hit that level in more than a decade.
From Jan. 1-Nov. 14, the department recorded 2,451 incidents in which a shot was fired, a 30% increase from the 1,886 shootings during the same time last year.The 2020 figure is also a 34.2% increase over the number of shots fired in that period in 2018.
Increase in shots fired in Los Angeles, Jan. 1-Nov. 14 2020 vs. 2019
The number of murders and shootings stands in contrast to a general decrease in crime in Los Angeles, which has in part been attributed to more people staying home during the pandemic. Overall crime is down 10% across the city. The rate of burglaries and robberies has also decreased.
Moore said the department is seeking to ensure there are sufficient detectives immediately available to respond to a shooting. Additionally, he said the department will seek to work with community-based organizations and others who can intervene to prevent retaliatory shootings.
Moore said the city is now seeing an average of about four shootings a day, up from two earlier in the year. He described sometimes troubling situations on the street, particularly during certain gang-related crimes. He said the incidents are often spontaneous.
“We’re seeing people with assault weapons firing multiple rounds, 40, 50 rounds, at an intersection,” he told the Police Commission.
Moore added that, after consulting with gang intervention workers, police believe the increase in shootings is partly due to a sense of hopelessness and heightened tensions in communities, and that the lack of jobs and opportunities during the pandemic has prompted some individuals to resort to violence.
“It’s not just a police issue. It’s a public health issue,” Moore told the Police Commission. “So we are prioritizing our resources on violence to identify people responsible for it. It is dependent on us working together with our other partners and in our communities.”
The uptick in crime is not exclusive to Los Angeles, as CNN and other media outlets have reported. Moore also told the Police Commission that during the pandemic there have been double-digit increases in violence in cities such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Houston.
Ben “Taco” Owens, executive director of Detours Mentoring Group, which works with at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 18, said any increase in shooting or homicide victims is alarming, and he believes many more incidents go unreported.
“Some of the things we have seen are broad daylight shootings,” he said. “When people do them in broad daylight, they are confident they will get away with it. Our platform of intervention is to find out why it’s happening and finding out how we can resolve it through conflict resolution.”
Owens suggested that in addition to intervention work, the city should hold anonymous gun buyback programs. He said this could address the rising number of “ghost guns” people can buy online from the dark web and assemble at home.
“They need to start giving good incentives for returning the handguns, like Air Jordans or Xboxes,” he said. “Something tangible they would be willing to trade.”
Handguns and semi-automatic pistols were the weapons most commonly used in shootings, according to police data. At least 900 of the shooting victims so far this year were men, more than 80% of the total.
Moore told the Police Commission there are too many guns in Los Angeles, which, when combined with heightened tension and stress levels in neighborhoods, is a dangerous situation.
How we did it: We examined publicly available crime data from the Los Angeles Police Department from Jan. 1-Nov. 14, 2020. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.
LAPD data only reflects crimes that are reported to the department, not how many crimes actually occurred. In making our calculations, we rely on the data the LAPD makes publicly available. LAPD may update past crime reports with new information, or recategorize past reports. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database.
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