LOS ANGELES—In the first half of 2022 homicides in the City of Los Angeles shot upward a whopping 39 percent from 2019. That was the year before the 2020 start of the COVID-19 pandemic. That summer also saw crime increase in most cities after the national riots following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) data showed 181 homicides from January to July 2022. That was up from 180 in the same period in 2021. The numbers were 140 in 2020 and 130 in 2019.
For all of 2021, the city suffered 397 homicides, the highest total in 15 years. However, if the current pace of 2022 is continued, the total for all of this year would be 362. That would be a decline of 8.8 percent from 2021.
Total violent crime saw a 6.9 percent uptick over 2021. And it rose 13.7 percent since 2020.
“Areas of challenge continue to be our robberies, aggravated assaults,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said during a July 12 meeting of the Police Commission. “Although in this last reporting period we did see improvements in both those categories versus property crime.”
In a previous meeting, Moore told the commission the homicide rate is being driven by gang-related homicides of homeless people. According to an analysis by Crosstown, a nonprofit news organization at USC, the LAPD identified 42 victims, or 23.2 percent, as homeless in the first half of 2022. That was a 37 percent increase from the previous year.
Over the last year, there has been a 13.1 percent increase in property crimes. Shooting violence data has remained “essentially flat” from last year, with 133 shooting victims over the last month and 132 in July 2021.
“The improvement we did see is in the last four weeks, we had 35 homicides, whereas last year at the same time we had 47,” the chief said. “So, while we entered into June with an overall increase of homicides year over year, we have seen some improvement in that area, where essentially we’re flattening the number of homicides this year versus last year.”
Moore said there also have been more attacks on street vendors. He encouraged them to “exercise good practices” and cooperate so the police can “pursue justice and defend them.”
“We’re also aware that the vendors can at times become subjected to intimidation by local street gangs, and a taxing or pay-to-play circumstance extortion occurs,” he said. “Again, it’s critical for the department to be brought into those situations so that we can counter those threats to their safety as well.”
He also attributed the growing crime to a jump in ghost guns, untraceable firearms usually constructed at home by the user and not registered. In LA, more than three out of four homicides recorded this year were carried out by a ghost gun, Crosstown found.
LAPD booked 3,556 firearms into the department. Of that, 754, or 21 percent, were classified as ghost guns.
“We only have to look back to a few years ago where that number would have been fewer than 100,” Moore said. “The prevalence of these guns and the prevalence of overall gun violence is our most pressing challenge.”
This year homicides were highest in Downtown LA, with 17 fatalities. Second was Vermont with 11 deaths, followed by Boyle Heights with 10.
As of July 2, Moore said the department had fallen below 9,300 sworn personnel, short of the department’s 9,700 goal. The current number is 9,280.
At the conclusion of the 2021-22 fiscal year on June 30, LAPD recorded 426 fewer sworn officers than the previous year.
“We’re still underemployed,” he said.