From the sounds and the sights in the night sky, Angelenos are already lighting the fuse on their fireworks stockpiles. Public officials are taking note, and recently City Attorney Mike Feuer announced a crackdown on the online sale of fireworks. There has also been danger and damage—on Tuesday night, an explosion of illegal fireworks confiscated by police on 27th Street injured 17 people.
Yet fireworks are not the only thing that generates heightened concern come Independence Day: With a plethora of parties and family gatherings, July 4 often leads to increased drunk driving, collisions and crime in Los Angeles.
Over the three-day 4th of July celebration in 2019, there were 465 collisions reported in the city, according to Los Angeles Police Department traffic data. While that was similar to other summer weekends, July 3 became one of the most dangerous days in the summer, with 185 reported.
Collisions in Los Angeles over the July 4 holiday, 2017-2020
The 2019 tally was similar to the same time period in 2018, when the LAPD recorded 464 collisions. The figure tumbled to 372 for the holiday period last year, but that was likely deflated as people stayed home during the pandemic.
In three of the last four years, the majority of collisions actually occurred on July 3.
There was perhaps one surprise in the pandemic year. In 2020 the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department pulled over 20 Angelenos for driving under the influence. That was the highest number of intoxicated drivers flagged by the department since 2016.
Car thefts and beyond
Another constant during the Independence Day weekend is crime, and although criminal incidents mostly declined significantly during the early months of the pandemic, that was not the case around July 4 in the city of Los Angeles. From July 3-5 last year, the LAPD reported 1,860 crimes, only a slight decline from the 1,923 the prior year. The 2020 figure was actually higher than the 1,833 over the same timeframe in 2018.
The holiday period was especially busy for car thieves. From July 3-5 last year, 222 vehicles were stolen in the city (this echoed an alarming spike in stolen automobiles during the pandemic). In 2019, 119 cars were stolen in the same period.
Stolen vehicles over the July 4 holiday, 2017-2020
Some neighborhoods also saw an uptick in crime over the holiday in 2020 compared to the previous year. Van Nuys and San Pedro are among the communities where the holiday weekend brought more criminal incidents than the year before.
How we did it: We examined LAPD crime and traffic collision data spanning each July 4 weekend from 2017-2020. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.
LAPD data only reflect 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. On occasion, the 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.