The city of Los Angeles recorded 397 murders in 2021, surpassing 2007, when there were 395 homicides. [This story has been updated from the original reported 385 homicides in 2021, as new data became available.]
The death toll was spurred by a devastating third quarter. From July through September, a total of 122 people were murdered in the city, according to publicly accessible Los Angeles Police Department data. Only two other times in the last decade have there been more than 100 murders in a quarter. Both occurred after the onset of the pandemic.
In July alone last year there were 48 homicides, making it the bloodiest month since at least 2010. There were 31 murders each in November and December. (The annual total is preliminary and subject to revision depending on changes in LAPD data.)
In the entire 2010s, Los Angeles never experienced more than 300 homicides in a single year. That ended with the 351 killings in 2020.
The year-end total represents a 12.5% increase over the 2020 figure, and a 53.1% spike over the 258 homicides in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
The year started off on a violent streak, and the situation worsened as summer arrived. Although numbers declined after peaking in July, there were still eight individual months in 2021 with 30 or more murders, including every month from June through December.
Police Chief Michel Moore has attributed the growing death toll partly to a rise in overall gun usage, and the LAPD has struggled to stay on top of the prevalence of firearms. The city last year recorded 3,379 shots-fired reports, a 58.2% increase over the 2,136 in 2019. The number of gun-related arrests is up 300% from pre-pandemic levels.
Rising nationwide numbers
Los Angeles is not the only city to experience a surge in homicides since the pandemic began. The FBI reported that murders in the United States in 2020 jumped by nearly 30% compared with the previous year.
New York City saw 485 murders last year, up from 462 in 2020 and 319 in 2019. Perhaps no U.S. city last year experienced more violence than Chicago. There were 797 homicides there in 2021, compared with 498 two years before.
For the fifth consecutive year, Downtown was the Los Angeles community with the most homicides. The 29 murders in the neighborhood in 2021 put it ahead of Watts, which recorded 23 killings. There were 14 homicides each in Boyle Heights, Florence and Green Meadows.
A firearm was the murder weapon in more than 74% of the deaths, according to LAPD data.
According to LAPD data, 207 of the people killed, or 52.4%, were identified as Hispanic, while 142 victims were Black (35.9%), and 29 (7.3%) were white. Approximately 86% of the victims were men.
The new year appears to have begun the way the last one ended. According to the LAPD, officers responded to a call about a stabbing in North Hollywood at 1:35 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2022. A 50-year-old man was taken to the hospital, where he died. Police are looking for the suspect.
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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