Los Angeles could see more than 300 homicides in 2020, police chief says

Already in 2020 there have been 53 more victims killed than over the same period in 2019

By Josh Cain
Daily News, Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — Dozens more people have been killed and more have been shot in Los Angeles this year than in the same time the year before, the city's police chief said Tuesday.

Already in 2020, there have been 266 killings, according to Los Angeles Police Department numbers as of Friday. That's 53 more victims killed than over the same period of 2019. The number is also already more than the total number of killings in 2019 and 2018.

In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore speaks during a news conference outside LAPD headquarters.
In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore speaks during a news conference outside LAPD headquarters. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio, File)

And the city is closing in on 1,000 total shooting victims -- as of Friday, 975 people had been shot, an increase of 185.

Police Chief Michel Moore said he expected the city to see 300 homicides by the end of the year. The last time Los Angeles saw that many killings was in 2009.

Moore attributed rising violence to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, making residents frustrated and hopeless.

"There are a lack of jobs. There is a lack of hope, in some instances, and a lot of time on people's hands," Moore said.

"Unfortunately people are resorting to using weapons as they get into these disputes, or they try to retaliate, or seek vengeance because of a perceived earlier slight or insult."

He said city workers in gang intervention programs are also struggling to stem the violence, even though they've increased the number of hours spent with affected community members.

City-wide budget cuts have sapped resources for those programs. And because of the coronavirus, in some cases workers are having to resort to meeting shooting victims in video conferences, rather than at their homes or by their hospital beds. Moore said that's less effective.

The chief said there are also more guns on the streets. He said the department has tracked an increase in car burglaries where a gun was stolen. He said some of those weapons have later been found at shooting scenes.

"We see a phenomenon of more guns, more people carrying guns," Moore said.

The chief's prediction alarmed members of the Police Commission.

"This is an enormous tragedy for the city," said commission President Eileen Decker, "given the work that was done, by the community, by the department, and by the entire city to get the number of homicides each year down below 300.

"I do recall in 2009, everyone was ecstatic the number was under 300, but hoping to drop it more," she said.

Moore said the violence was hitting the city's Black and Brown communities hardest: Nearly half of the victims shot, 462, were Black, and increase of 35 percent over 2019. Another 423 were Latino, a 14 percent increase.

The killings primarily occurred in LAPD's South Bureau covering most of South L.A. But killings also jumped in the Central Division. The West Division saw a small increase, too.

The only area of the city with a flat number of killings was the San Fernando Valley, Moore said, though shootings there were on the rise.

The city's violent crime rate was still down more than 3% over the year before. Rapes, robberies and assaults so far in 2020 have fallen by double digits, though officials have publicly worried that the pandemic has led to fewer people reporting crimes.

The numbers this year are also still far below the historic levels of violence Los Angeles has seen in the past.

In some years of the 1990s, killings soared past 1,000. But over the last 30 years, the city's murder rate steadily dropped. In 2018 and 2019, killings in Los Angeles fell to 251 and 253, respectively, numbers not seen since the 1960s.

Moore said other major cities across the U.S. -- New York City, Chicago and Houston -- have seen similar increases in violence and murders this year.

(c)2020 the Daily News (Los Angeles)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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