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The numbers of homicides and shootings in Los Angeles fell in the first three weeks of 2022 compared with the same period last year, Police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday, but robberies are up, continuing a trend that began late last year.
Moore said 26 people had been killed so far this year, compared with 33 at the same point in 2021.
“This level of violence is still well above numbers we saw in 2020," he said at Tuesday's meeting of the civilian Police Commission. "So we are by no means out of the woods in regards to … our work to see that we turn the tide on reversing the incidences of gun violence and homicides.”
Cautioning that the numbers covered a limited amount of time, Moore said, “while the numbers are still stabilizing, I can report that in the first three weeks we have seen somewhat of a slowing down of the number of shots fired, number of shooting victims and the number of homicides compared to the same period last year.”
In two of the killings, men with lengthy criminal records and a history of being unhoused have been charged with murder in what were apparently unprovoked attacks. Shawn Laval Smith is charged with stabbing to death 24-year-old Brianna Kupfer on Jan. 13 at the Hancock Park furniture store where she worked, and Kerry Bell is accused of killing nurse Sandra Shells as she waited for a bus outside Union Station that same day.
In 2021, L.A. had 397 homicides, up 11.8% from 355 killings the previous year and up 53.9% from 258 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019. That number was the highest figure since 2007, when the city recorded 395 homicides.
The Los Angeles Police Department also reported 1,459 victims shot in 2021, a 54.2% increase over 2019, when 946 people were shot in the city.
Moore said at Tuesday's meeting that robberies "continued to persist," noting a 14% increase this year over the same period in 2021. Car thefts also continued to increase over last year and 2020, Moore said.
The chief said his officers are focusing “our resources on violent crime first," and when it comes to property crimes, they are encouraging people "to lock it up."
He noted that he attended a vigil for Tioni Theus, a 16-year-old girl who was fatally shot in the neck and found dumped near the Manchester Avenue on-ramp of the 110 Freeway the morning of Jan. 8. His department's South Bureau homicide detectives are passing on information they gather to the California Highway Patrol, which is investigating the killing, he said.
Moore said he understood that CHP investigators had leads and forensic evidence but had not publicly described a suspect or a vehicle involved in the killing. On Tuesday, the L.A. City Council and L.A. County Board of Supervisors considered a combined $60,000 reward for tips leading to the arrest and prosecution of a suspect.
Another of this year's homicide victims was an off-duty officer in Moore's department. Fernando Arroyos, 27, was shot to death Jan. 10 in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood near Watts.
He and his girlfriend were house hunting and had stopped to take pictures of a place, police said. Federal prosecutors charged four people Jan. 13 with carrying out the fatal shooting during a robbery and murder “to increase and maintain position” of a street gang.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.