Posted on August 17, 2021

Latino and Black Victims Account For Nearly All of L.A.’s Surge in Homicides

Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2021

The surge in homicides in Los Angeles since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has played out almost entirely among Latino and Black victims, according to a Times analysis of Los Angeles Police Department data.

The figures reflect wide disparities in public safety across the city, experts say, as well as compounding trauma for communities of color hit hard by past gang violence and devastated at disproportionate rates by the economic and social upheaval of the last 18 months.

Police attribute much of the latest violence to gangs, but the impact has been felt by victims old and younghomeless and housed, sitting in their cars and working a shift.


Kevin “Twin” Orange, a gang intervention worker for the city, said the pandemic is fully to blame, because it undercut so many programs designed to stop violence.

He had hoped things would settle down soon but now fears the latest increase in coronavirus cases from the Delta variant will spur more shutdowns — and more violence.

“We could find ourselves going back down that dark hole again,” he said.

In the 18-month period from January 2020 through this June, there were 266 Latino victims killed in L.A., compared with 182 Latino victims in the prior 18-month period — a 46.2% increase.

There were 192 Black victims, compared with 151 Black victims in the previous period, for a 27.2% increase. Victims whose race was described as “other” were fewer in number, but increased more sharply — from 14 to 30, for a 114.3% increase.

White victims, also smaller in number, increased marginally, from 38 to 40 victims, or a 5.3% increase.

While Latinos represented the largest portion of victims, Black people were the most overrepresented among victims when compared with the city’s overall population, the data show.

Latinos account for 49% of the city’s population, according to U.S. Census data, and 50% of homicide victims during the more recent 18-month period. Black people account for just 9% of the city’s population, but 36% of the victims. Non-Latino white people account for about 29% of L.A.’s population, but less than 8% of the victims.

Data on homicide suspects are less complete — and therefore less conclusive — than victim data because many killings go unsolved. However, available data do indicate similar racial disparities among homicide suspects.

Of those killings between 1998 and 2020 where police recorded a description of the suspect’s race, 50% were Latino and 34% were Black, while 4% were white and 3% were listed as “other.” This year, 42% of noted suspects have been described as Latino, 46% Black and 4% white, according to LAPD data.

Racial disparities in who is impacted by violence are not new in L.A., and they have long been used as a political hammer to drive home demands for more aggressive policing in certain communities.

The latest data have similarly attracted attention, this time within a broader debate — amplified by last year’s mass protests — about the future of policing and public safety in L.A., particularly in communities of color where crime, poverty, distrust of police and pandemic-driven insecurity all run deep.

In the LAPD’s end-of-year report on 2020 crime, officials noted the unequal spread of violence in the city, writing that Angelenos last year “were being victimized in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.”

In a recent speech, newly appointed Police Commission President William Briggs, who is Black, cited the disparate violence as a major reason why he rejects the idea, favored by activists, that the LAPD should be defunded.

“Our communities of color that are most impacted by crime, many of which have seen the homicide rate rise [by more than] 30% this year, cannot afford to go without law enforcement,” Briggs said.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore and other police commanders have repeatedly joined community leaders, clergy and victim advocates in South L.A. in the last year to call for a stop to the shooting and killing, noting that many of the victims are young Latino and Black men.

Moore recently told the Police Commission that he is deploying more officers to hard-hit neighborhoods as part of a summer plan to reduce the violence but that detectives need more help from community members to solve shooting cases — which have risen dramatically.

While detectives this year are solving nearly 70% of homicides, he said, they are only solving about 20% of nonfatal shootings, with 250 more cases to handle than in the year prior. Trigger-pullers, he said, are being allowed to harm the community over and over.


Activists have also flagged the outsized impact of violence in communities of color but offer a different prescription than police for solving it — arguing that defunding the LAPD would free up funding for social services that would do more to change the tide than any added patrols.

Community leaders, intervention workers and experts say they are dismayed by the violence and its impact on community members, and blame the pandemic for much of it. They also said they want to see a balanced approach to addressing it that prioritizes the restoration of community-based support and safety programs rather than a return to outdated, aggressive policing.