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California Homicides Jump 31% in 2020, Most in 13 Years



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SACRAMENTO — Homicides in California jumped 31% last year, making it the deadliest year since 2007, and Black people accounted for nearly one-third of all victims, according to reports released Thursday.

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

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

Stark Increase Compared to Low Rates in 2019

Last year saw such a stark increase in homicides in part because the number and rate of homicides the year before were so low.

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

California cities generally did better than those in other states that saw bigger per capita increases in homicides and aggravated assaults, experts said.

Yet last year, California had nearly 300 more homicides than the next most deadly year in the last decade — 2016, which had 1,930 slayings, according to annual reports from the state attorney general’s office.

Pandemic Led to Erratic Changes in Crime Patterns

The jump in California homicides comes amid an erratic year for crime, with a less than 1% increase in overall violent crime and a 7.7% drop in property crime during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the state reports.

The pandemic and its accompanying stay-at-home orders and other restrictions led to erratic changes in crime patterns last year, the experts said in a report to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code.

“Social dislocations, stresses, and alterations to 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 in California cities compared with others nationwide that reported their rates to the FBI. However, the vehicle theft rate was higher in California cities for reasons the experts could not explain.

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

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