Murders, Shootings Continue to Rise in Los Angeles

Police blame some of the recent spike on a gang feud in South Los Angeles; officials say an effective response during the pandemic is difficult.

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The Los Angeles Police Department said Tuesday an alarming increase in street violence had continued in recent days, with at least 50 people shot and more than a dozen murdered.

"We haven't seen that type of week in over 10 years," said LAPD Assistant Chief Robert Arcos.

According to police data the number of murders has increased 21% year-to-date in 2020, when compared with the same time period last year. The number of shooting victims is up by at least 18%.

Much of the last week's violence took place between Sept. 29 and Oct. 2 and was linked to what Arcos described as a historic gang feud.

"That was reheated up over an incident in 77th Division, and that is what we attribute the back and forth to that violence," Arcos said Tuesday.

In one shooting he said a gunman drove by a gathering, leaned out of a car window with an AK-47 style rifle, and sprayed bullets at the crowd.

"Fortunately, none of them were killed but four victims were hit on the street there, so that level of violence again and that trajectory is very concerning to all of us," Arcos said.

He said in this and other incidents there was a woman in her 70s and other adults in their 50s who were caught in the crossfire. He said they were innocent victims not involved in gang activity at all.

The LAPD said one of the community's most effective responses to try to stop 'back and forth' gang shootings has also been impacted by the coronavirus.

Hospitals are far more restrictive about allowing visitors into emergency rooms and treatment rooms, where gang intervention workers can often be most effective in dissuading retaliatory violence.

"Hospitals are very tight on who can come in and visit, so there was not a lot of engagement with family members, friends at the hospital because of the restriction at the hospital," Arcos said.

The LAPD has also changed the way it uses Metropolitan Division officers in response to an increase in street violence. No longer are uniformed Metro officers in unmarked patrol cars sent into an area to stop and question as many pedestrians and motorists as possible, with the hope of identifying gang members or seizing illegally possessed guns.

"It's not haphazard and random patrolling in these areas," Arcos said to the Board of Police Commissioners. "As you recall in some of the criticism of the way we had utilized Metropolitan Division is that we gave them too big an area to patrol, too big an area to work on."

Instead he said Metro would be given specific locations or people to work, and those assignments were made after consultation with area City Councilmembers.

The LAPD's data tallied 41 more murders year to date in 2020 when compared with 2019. There have been 132 more shooting victims in 2020 than by this time in 2019. Overall crime rates have declined, and police say that's tied to months of "safer at home" directives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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