Murders in Los Angeles were up sharply in the first quarter of the year, continuing a disturbing trend that began in 2020.
There were 92 homicides between January and March, a 46% increase over the 63 in the same period last year, according to publicly available data from the Los Angeles Police Department.
Los Angeles homicide count, Jan. 1-March 31, 2011-2021
Killings began to surge in Los Angeles after the onset of the pandemic, and similar trends were seen in cities across the country. Last year, Los Angeles recorded a total of 347 homicides, a 36% jump over the level in 2019, and the first time in more than a decade that the annual figure had surpassed 300.
Chief of Police Michel Moore on Tuesday said escalating gang violence and other activity are contributing to the rise.
“We’ve seen an increase in retaliation and in disputes involving persons experiencing homelessness, and narcotic sales and distribution and other types of gang-related disputes,” Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission during its weekly meeting.
The rise in homicides occurred even as “Part 1” crimes—the term for the most serious offenses—in Los Angeles fell by 6.4% in the first four months of this year, according to LAPD data.
Until relatively recently, homicides in Los Angeles had been on the decline. The 256 murders in 2019 was down from 282 two years before.
Annual number of homicides in Los Angeles, 2010-2021
The murder rate rose dramatically in the latter half of last year, as the pandemic kept people at home and caused the economy to crater. The LAPD recorded 106 homicides in the third quarter and 105 in the fourth quarter, up from 71 and 56 in the third and fourth quarters of 2019, respectively.
Homicide rate in Los Angeles by quarter, 2010-2021
The youngest victim this year was 2-years old, killed by what police termed bodily force, on April 10 in Reseda. The oldest was 87, also killed in a physical confrontation, in Gramercy Park on Feb. 5.
Arrests for murder have also increased with the growing number of cases. Through April 24, the LAPD recorded 131 homicide arrests, a 35.6% increase from 101 in the same period last year.
One potential bright side is a decrease in killings in the last month. From March 28-April 24, the LAPD reported 18 murders, down 25% from the 24 in a similar period last year. However, the overall level of 108 homicides through April 24 compares to 83 at the same time in 2020.
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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