(CALMATTERS) – Homicides and car thefts shot up in four major California cities in 2020, even as overall violent and property crimes remained below pre-pandemic levels, according to a Tuesday report from the Public Policy Institute of California analyzing preliminary crime data. Homicides increased by a jaw-dropping 40% in Los Angeles, 36% in Oakland, 17% in San Francisco and 10% in San Diego. And despite an overall decline in residential burglaries (except for San Francisco, which saw a startling 78% increase), car thefts jumped 24%. Commercial burglaries also rose by about 26%, with a significant uptick in May amid protests over the death of George Floyd.
It’s still too early to tell what’s driving the changes, but California saw a sharp spike in gun ownership amid the pandemic — and a surge in the number of people who have firearms despite being legally prohibited from owning them.
What is clear is the statistics could fuel an already contentious debate over the future of criminal justice reform in California and a red-hot 2022 attorney general race. If you can’t wait for that debate, check out this one between college students and University of California administrators over the future of campus policing, via a panel CalMatters co-hosted with KQED last week.