The Fresh Crimes of Bel-Air

Affluent community sees an unexpected spike in criminal activity, while levels fall in other neighborhoods
Crime in Los Angeles 2019
Cover art by Ivy Tsang.

Overall crime has tumbled in the coronavirus era, and according to Los Angeles Police Department data the number of criminal incidents from January through November is 11% below what it was during the same timeframe in 2019. Yet the spread across the city has not been equal, with some neighborhoods showing surprising trends.


That includes Bel-Air. The affluent and generally safe enclave topped the list of Los Angeles neighborhoods that saw a spike in crime. It recorded 235 crimes in the first 11 months of the year, a nearly 41% increase over the 167 incidents during the same time in 2019.


Bel-Air crime reports 2019 vs. 2020

Bel-Air crime 2020 vs. 2019


The baseline is relatively small, as the 17 reports in March grew to 26 in April, 31 in May, and peaked at 39 in June. There were just eight reported crimes in the community in November.


There were 40 burglaries in the neighborhood during the first 11 months of the year, up from 24 during the same period last year. Bel-Air also registered 40 reports of breaking into a vehicle, an increase from 18 last year. Police tallied 21 instances of trespassing and 19 reports of stolen vehicles.


The increase in crime has led to community outreach, including a Dec. 2 Zoom meeting in which police showed a video depicting how quickly a thief can break into a car.


Another community that has seen an increase in crime is Rancho Park, near Palms and Cheviot Hills. Again, the figures are low compared to other areas, and Rancho Park actually recorded the fourth-fewest number of crimes of any city neighborhood, according to LAPD data. Still, the 207 incidents in the first 11 months of 2020 mark a 6% increase from the 195 reports during the same time last year.


Burglary from homes and vehicles, along with stolen cars, were the most frequent crimes in Rancho Park.


Los Angeles neighborhoods with fewest crime reports in 2020

List of LA neighborhoods with the fewest crime reports in 2020


Captain Paul Vernon, who heads the LAPD’s Compstat division, acknowledged that car theft is up across the city, with the spike starting in mid-April. City officials have said thieves have taken advantage of vehicles sitting idle on the streets for long periods as people drive less during the coronavirus. Vernon also said reducing bail amounts have allowed suspects to avoid detention, contributing to the increase.


“Car thieves saw open season to steal cars, many sitting unused due to COVID,” Vernon said. “Being released without posting any bail, many thieves stole multiple cars in a day or week.”


Other neighborhoods have seen statistically significant drops in crime this year, though the sheer number of incidents vastly exceeds reports in communities such as Bel-Air and Rancho Park. For instance, crime in Downtown fell 15% from January to November, though the densely packed area has still recorded 11,291 incidents.


Los Angeles neighborhoods with the most crime reports in 2020

List of neighborhoods with the greatest number of crime reports in Los Angeles


Additional communities with a large percentage decrease, but a sizable number of crimes, include Hollywood. The year-to-year drop stands at 16%, though the community has recorded more than 6,000 crimes.


While overall crime has fallen, the city has experienced a worrying increase in shootings and homicides. The number of murders this year is over 300, the first time that level has been eclipsed in more than a decade.


How we did it: We examined publicly available crime data from the Los Angeles Police Department from Jan. 1-Nov. 30, 2020, compared with the same time period last year. 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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