California homicides rise 31% in 2020, most in 13 years

DON THOMPSON, Associated Press

The number of murders in California rose 31% last year, making it the deadliest year since 2007, and blacks made up nearly a third of all victims, according to reports released Thursday.

The 2,202 homicides last year were 523 more than in 2019, while the rate has increased in a similar fashion – from 4.2 to 5.5 homicides per 100,000 people.

That’s the most murders since 2,258 people killed in 2007, and the rate is the highest since 2008. Black people make up 6.5% of California’s population, but made up 31% of all casualties last year. 45% were Hispanic people while 16% were white.

There has been such a sharp rise in homicides last year, in part because the number and rate of homicides was so low the year before.

California’s 2019 homicide rate was the lowest since 1966, and 2019 violent and property crimes were generally among the lowest since the 1960s, four experts from the University of California, Berkeley’s California Policy Lab, said in a similar review that focus on cities with more than 100,000 people.

California’s cities generally outperformed those in other states, which increased the number of homicides and serious assaults per capita, experts said.

But last year California had nearly 300 more homicides than next year, with the highest number of fatal accidents in the past decade – 2016 with 1,930 kills, according to the attorney general’s annual reports.

California homicides surge comes in an unpredictable year for crime, with overall violent crime rising less than 1% and property crime falling 7.7% during the coronavirus pandemic, state reports.

The pandemic, and the associated home stay orders and other restrictions, led to erratic changes in crime patterns over the past year, the experts said in a report to Governor Gavin Newsom’s committee on the revision of the criminal code.

“Social upheaval, stress and changes in our collective daily routines due to the pandemic have impacted crime rates in California and across the country,” they said.

Property crime also fell more sharply in California cities than in other statewide cities that reported rates to the FBI. However, vehicle theft rates were higher in California cities for reasons the experts couldn’t explain.

They cited reduced social interactions from stay-at-home orders as a likely reason for the decline in robbery, rape, and theft.

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