Crime & Justice

LAPD blames gangs for jump in murders

LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) headquarters sign
LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) headquarters sign
Eric E Johnson/Flickr/Creative Commons

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So far, 29 people have been murdered in Los Angeles in 2015, up from 23 at this time last year. That's a 26 percent increase and Los Angeles Police Department Officials said they aren't taking it lightly.

"To have a spike so high this early is a little unusual for us," said 77th Street Division Captain Cory Palka, whose patrol area has had five murders so far this year, compared to two this time in 2014.

Palka said the uptick seems to be caused by gang-related violence, and quelling it will mean focusing on data: identifying crime hot spots and chronic offenders.

Police in L.A. have been focusing increasingly on data for years through its Compstat system, which attempts to identify emerging trends and patterns in what types of crimes are occurring and where. 

Homicides had started going up last year. LAPD reported 260 murders in 2014, compared to 251 in 2013.

LAPD Commander Andrew Smith said the agency is now sending additional officers to 77th Street, South L.A. and Hollenbeck, to combat the jump in homicides. Those areas have seen the biggest increases this year. 

A shooting in Harvard Park prompted officials to send horse-mounted officers to patrol the park, in an effort to help residents feel safer.

Overall, Smith said, crime is still much lower than a couple of decades ago, when it wasn't entirely uncommon to see three murders in a single division in a single officer's shift. 

"Many times in the past ten years we thought we'd hit rock bottom as far as crime and it was going to start going up, only to find that crime went down further," Smith said. "Every time it starts to go up even a little bit, we're thinking the worst, 'oh here we go, it's starting back up again' and we do everything we can."