Los Angeles County, CA – The homicide rate in Los Angeles County skyrocketed 94 percent in the past two years alone, according to the sheriff.
Grand theft auto offenses are also up 59 percent, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said during a press conference on Wednesday, according to KABC.
Sheriff Villanueva used data from 2019, 2020, and 2021 to illustrate the rising trend.
He noted he especially wanted to alert the community about the homicide and grand theft auto statistics because “obviously, they’re definitely going in the wrong direction,” KABC reported.
Sheriff Villanueva said the massive jump in homicides is “probably one of the biggest jumps ever” anywhere in the nation.
The number of aggravated assaults has also increased nearly 12 percent over the past two years, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
The sheriff said many factors have contributed to the crime spikes, including the hiring freeze the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors placed on his office, KABC reported.
“I still have a majority of the board that is dead set on defunding the department, and that does not work because the community is suffering directly as a result of their decisions, not of our actions,” he noted.
The sheriff said he is hoping to fill at least 800 sworn positions at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) this year, which would bump up the number of deputies from 9,500 to at about 10,300, KABC reported.
Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon’s soft-on-crime criminal justice reform policies have also contributed to the massive jump in violent crime, Sheriff Villanueva said.
Gascon’s office sidestepped that accusation entirely in a statement released after the press conference, KABC reported.
His office instead focused on Gascon’s “top priority” of “police accountability.”
“He is working to restore the public’s faith in the criminal legal system by holding law enforcement officers who violate the law accountable for their crimes,” Gascon’s office declared.
Sheriff Villanueva said the pandemic has also undoubtedly contributed to the county’s soaring crime rate, KABC reported.
“A lot of this is still pandemic-related,” he told reporters. “Obviously, the societal patterns, behaviors, people at home, businesses closed – it disrupted a lot of cycles of crime and opportunities for crime, but unfortunately, the underlying premise of violent crime, the proliferation of guns, ‘ghost guns’ on the street, that keeps rising.”
Despite the uptick in violent crime, the number of complaints on deputies has decreased by 43 percent over the past year at LASD stations where bodycams have been implemented, KABC reported.
Sheriff Villanueva said he will continue expanding use of bodycams throughout the sheriff’s office.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said the county’s growing crime rate must be curbed, KABC reported.
“The answer to fighting crime is twofold, perpetrators must face consequences when breaking the law and funding must be directed to support crime prevention strategies,” Barger said.
The LASD covers all of the unincorporated areas of the county, as well as 42 cities that contract with the department, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.