LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore says the COVID-19 pandemic has helped drive gun violence and increase killings in the city this year, including by spurring economic despair and interpersonal dramas while undercutting efforts to interrupt cycles of retaliation.
“What we’re sensing is a lot of stress, a lot of communities that are on edge, a certain amount of depression,” Moore said during a morning meeting of the civilian Police Commission in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times.
In addition to serving as an emotional and economic wrecking ball, the pandemic, Moore said, has shifted nighttime gatherings away from traditional settings such as clubs and bars into neighborhoods and party houses, which have become a “fertile bed for some type of spontaneous violence.”
He also said that pandemic-related rules barring visitors from local hospitals have prevented trained violence intervention workers from visiting the bedsides of surviving shooting victims, eliminating the opportunity to provide resources and emotional support, address their anger and help prevent retaliatory violence on the streets.
“Those (programs) are being interrupted right now,” Moore said.
Moore’s comments follow a violent summer that saw gun violence increase in July and August. The trend has continued into this month, Moore said.
Earlier in the year, police had cited the pandemic as a cause for crime decreases, with fewer people on the street amid stay-at-home orders.
However, as of Sept. 5, homicides were up 13.7% compared with the same time last year, while the number of shooting victims was up 8.2%, according to the latest city data. Incidents in which shots were fired, including those in which no one was struck, were up 11.9%.
Compared with 2018, the increases were even more stark, with homicides up more than 20%.
The increases come despite a 5.6% drop in violent crime overall, and a 9.3% decrease in property crime despite a 35% increase in vehicle thefts.
They also come despite the lack of a parallel uptick in a more traditional driver of bloodshed in LA: gang-related violence. According to the Los Angeles Police Department data, shootings linked to gangs were down 14.4% compared with last year, and gang-related homicides were down nearly 2%.
Moore described LA’s increased violence this year as less severe than that seen in other major cities, including New York City, but said his commanders nonetheless view it as a top priority and have begun implementing changes to address it.
As one example, Moore said that officers in the department’s troubled Metropolitan Division who had been detailed to general crime suppression work have been redeployed onto shooting response teams, which are now assisting detectives by canvassing neighborhoods for information and following up with witnesses and victims.
Moore said the LAPD also is working with neighboring agencies to identify “what cross-neighborhood issues may be influencing this,” The Times reported.