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Homelessness Helps Drive Rising Los Angeles Crime Numbers

For years, Los Angeles residents have complained about growing crime – from catalytic converter theft to stolen packages, or far worse – and the impact on their quality of life. More than three years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, USA Today studied the data to assess how much crime really has gone up and whether people are more, or less, safe than they were back in 2019. Los Angeles saw an 11% increase in its crime rate in 2022, with 60 reported crimes per 1,000 residents last year compared with 54 per 1,000 residents in 2019. The data includes both violent and property crimes. It's impossible to discuss crime in Los Angeles without considering the city's massive unhoused population, possibly the nation's largest. Blocks of tents parked in green spaces and along sidewalks downtown and in more affluent Westside neighborhoods were allowed to remain in place during the height of the pandemic and helped fuel rising crime rates.

Mayor Karen Bass, who has vowed to make solving L.A.'s homelessness crisis her top priority in her first year in office, plans to move people from street encampments into hotel rooms and permanent housing. Mental illness, an increase in use of narcotics such as fentanyl, plus an increase in homeless people carrying weapons, are among the factors contributing to a crime increase, said Los Angeles police Capt. Elaine Morales. Her Central Division includes downtown's "Skid Row," a 54-block area where many of L.A.'s unhoused population lives in tents near community resources geared toward them. The findings on Los Angeles crime trends come from an analysis of data gathered by Crosstown, a nonprofit at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, which provides community-level crime statistics from the reports made to the Los Angeles Police Department. One neighborhoods that experienced a major surge in crime was downtown Los Angeles, which in the years preceding the pandemic had increasingly become a regional hub for entertainment, dining and business. Downtown L.A.'s crime rate was more than six times the citywide rate and triple other L.A. neighborhoods in 2022. There were more than 370 reported crimes per 1,000 people downtown last year.


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