Murders in Los Angeles hit highest level in over a decade

A 36% jump in homicides defines a grim year



Last year ended with a grim total: 350 people were killed in the City of Los Angeles, a 36% increase from last year, according to Capt. Paul Vernon, director of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Compstat Division. 


This rise in homicides is particularly concerning because it occurred when overall crime fell by 12% in 2020. 


At the beginning of the year, the homicide rate appeared to follow the steady downward trend begun in 2016. But homicides jumped to 40 in July — a spike from the 27 reported during that same month in 2019 and the 22 reported in 2018 — making it the biggest month for homicides in over decade. 


Homicides in Los Angeles, 2010-2020


chart of homicides in Los Angeles 2010-2020

LAPD Chief Michel Moore has stated that the rise in homicides is in part the result of frustration exacerbated by the pandemic. In November, in reaction to a spate of shootings, he noted that individuals may be more prone to violence after months of isolation and few job opportunities. 


Though the increase in homicides in Los Angeles is alarming, it is nowhere near the levels reported in previous decades. In 1992, the year of the Rodney King riots, there were 2,589 homicides reported. Going back further, to 1980, 1,028 people were killed in Los Angeles. 


With 26 reported deaths in 2020, Downtown was the top neighborhood for homicides for the fourth year in a row, followed by Boyle Heights, with 20. Vermont Square, Westlake and Broadway-Manchester also reported high numbers, with 14, 13 and 12 deaths by homicide, respectively. 


Guns were used in 73% of homicides in 2020, or 258 deaths. Cutting instruments, such as knives, were involved in 37 deaths, accounting for 10% of homicides. 


Weapons used in 2020 homicides


Chart of weapons used in homicides

Includes data for the 341 homicide reports made public by the LAPD. No data is yet available for nine  additional reports. 


According to Crosstown’s 2019 homicide report, guns were responsible for 68% of all homicides and cutting instruments were involved in 7% of cases. 


Of those who lost their lives to violence in 2020, 46% were Hispanic and 37% were Black. According to LAPD data, men made up more than 85% of the victims. 


Descent of 2020 homicide victims

Pie chart of descent of homicide victims

Includes data for the 341 homicide reports made public by the LAPD. No data is yet available for nine  additional reports. 


The youngest victim was a 4-year-old Black girl who was killed in Gramercy Park on Aug. 11. The oldest victim was an 85-year-old Hispanic woman who was killed in Larchmont on May 31.


How we did it: We examined publicly available crime data from the Los Angeles Police Department beginning in 2010. 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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