A 14-year-old aspiring football player. A 19-year-old high school graduate just getting his start in life. A 77-year-old woman and her 58-year-old daughter inside their home. A 79-year-old woman standing outside her car.
On Friday morning, Los Angeles police officials cited these and other recent South L.A. shootings as they joined elected officials, community leaders, gang interventionists and local clergy to denounce the violence — which spiked this summer and surged this week — and ask for the community’s help addressing it.
Although the LAPD’s South Bureau covers just 12% of the city, it has experienced 39% of L.A.'s homicides this year and 45% of its shootings, police officials said. Just since Sunday, the region has seen four people killed, 19 wounded by gunfire and 11 others narrowly escape injury after being fired upon.
“It’s not just the gang members shooting each other, it’s the innocent victims that are in the crosswalk,” said South L.A. Deputy Chief Regina Scott, a mother and grandmother whose family lives in the area. “The police department cannot do this alone. We cannot arrest our way out of this. This takes a wholistic approach.”
LAPD Chief Michel Moore cited a recent case in which a 20-year-old man hoping to become a police officer took an exit off the highway to get around traffic, then had his car shot up at a stoplight after local gang members apparently mistook him for a rival and opened fire.
Moore said in South L.A. alone, 40 children younger than 18 have been shot this year — including nine kids younger than 10.
“This is a pace of shooting and violence that we’ve not seen in years,” he said.
The recent “spasm” of violence, as Moore called it, has contributed to an almost 15% rise in homicides in the city this year, compared to last. Similar increases are being seen all across the country.
The violence has come amid a pandemic related to the novel coronavirus that has driven down other types of crime, including property crime. Overall violent crime is down in the city and in the South Bureau too — just not shootings and homicides. The increases have followed a summer of anti-police protests that, paired with the pandemic-driven economic downturn, led to a significant cut to the LAPD’s budget this year.
Police have said the budget cuts have put restraints on them, and the department has slashed spending on overtime. Citywide, arrests are down 25% from last year, and violent crime arrests are down more than 11%.
Both Moore and Scott said the department’s efforts to address crime in South L.A. have not slowed. If anything, they’ve increased. Moore said the department is “leaning forward” during a difficult time. Scott said her officers are making hundreds of arrests, including for violent crime.
This past month, they took more than 250 weapons off the streets, the most in any month this year, she said. But it’s not enough, she said.
“We cannot do this alone.”
City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said he and Councilman Joe Buscaino — the two councilmembers who represent the area — “stand together in supporting extended deployments of LAPD officers” in the area.
“We’ve had an unconscionable number of young people struck by gunfire in the last several weeks. We’ve lost far too many lives,” he said. “In our community we do not take these types of events sitting down. We get together. We take action. We confront it. We throw everything we can at the problem.”
Buscaino, a former police officer, said communities in South L.A. are composed of hardworking families who deserve better.
“It needs to stop. Kids are out of school. Guns are out in the streets. Fewer police officers on the streets. It’s a recipe for a spike in crime.”
He said gang intervention programs and Community Safety Partnership programs offered by the LAPD need to be expanded and replicated across the city, and more intervention workers need to be put in place.
Bishop Grover Durham, senior minister at Good Citizen Deeds Foundation, said the community must support the LAPD by providing information whenever witnessing a crime — even if anonymously.
“We have so many of our young people who are dying for no reason at all,” he said. “A lot of times we see things and we don’t say anything. We turn our heads. But this affects many families.”
He said solving the issue will take more than prayer — it will take action.
“We cannot keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “During this COVID time when we should stay at home to stay safe, a lot of times we’re still not safe. We’ve got to do better than we’ve been doing.”