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LAPD chief calls out deadly crime surge

LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore, right, addresses the media in October.
LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore, right, addresses reporters in October outside Southeast Community Police Station to discuss an increase in crime in South Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The first two weeks of 2021 saw 59 shooting victims in South Los Angeles compared with seven last year, L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore said in a tweet Saturday, calling attention to a deadly crime surge that has coincided with a devastating pandemic.

The police headquarters account also weighed in on the increase in violence, reporting that citywide in a slightly different time period there were 68 shootings and 24 homicides, “the highest year-to-date start in over 10 years.”

The ongoing pandemic — which has kept many businesses closed and many people at home — may be one factor.

Through January and February 2020, gun violence was slightly elevated over the same period in 2019. Other crime was relatively flat. Then, the state issued its shutdown order in March, and crime patterns radically shifted.

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In 2020, homicides, shootings and car thefts surged, while robberies, reported rapes and lesser property crimes dropped off. The swings were dramatic, too, with killings hitting a decade high after years of sustained reductions, and shootings increasing nearly 40%. Meanwhile, robberies declined by 17%, and reports of rapes fell 25%.

In late November, the city surpassed 300 homicides in a single calendar year, for the first time since 2009. One week in December saw 14 homicides and 45 shooting victims versus four homicides and 17 shootings in the same week in 2019.

According to the most recent count by the L.A. Times Homicide Report, 656 people have been killed in L.A. County during the last 12 months. The tally rose Saturday with the report of an unidentified man found shot dead near Huntington Park just after 7 a.m.

Police analysts have landed on various theories on what is driving the crime trends — including a reduction in overall movement, strains in illicit drug markets, more gunmen opening fire on rivals at close range and police officers being stretched thin in high-crime areas amid citywide emergencies, operational changes and officers quarantining or missing work due to illness.

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“It’s our shared responsibility to stop this senseless violence,” said the LAPD headquarters tweet.

Moore spoke in similar terms in his later tweet.

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