LA reaches 300 homicides for the first time since 2009. What’s driving the numbers?

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This past weekend, four people were fatally shot in Los Angeles, including a 17-year-old boy killed while riding his bike. That raises the number to 300 homicides so far in LA in 2020. Photo by Tex Texin (CC BY 2.0).

Crime statistics have been declining in Southern California and other parts of the U.S. for years. The trend is no different with the pandemic in 2020, but there are a few exceptions. Car thefts are up. And in LA and many big cities, so are homicides.

This past weekend, four people were fatally shot in Los Angeles, including a 17-year-old boy killed while riding his bike. That raises the number to 300 homicides so far in 2020, a grim milestone that hasn’t been seen here in more than a decade.

Many of those killings have taken place in South LA, an area that has been hard hit by COVID-19.

“For the most part, the homicides that are going on are not gang-related,” says Skipp Townsend, head of 2nd Call, a gang intervention organization in South LA. 

He continues, “A lot of what’s going on is relationship-based. People who know each other, whether it’s domestic violence or family violence … they are killing each other instead of arguing and fighting.” 

Also, the coronavirus-driven economic crisis and social distancing rules may be driving behaviors.  

“I think COVID-19 has a lot to do with it, with individuals who are young, who have been in a house, who don’t have that social setting they used to have, sitting around and wanting to do things,” says Townsend. “I believe that also the money that was in the community — there’s a lot of money in the community because of COVID because of different reasons — and that gave access to weapons, so people were able to purchase firearms.”