LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Homicides in Los Angeles are spiking this year and the Los Angeles Police Department is checking to see if the coronavirus pandemic is playing a part in that rise.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore this week said the city has seen 157 murders so far this year, compared to 138 for the same period last year. That's a 14% rise, but Moore says it's too early to directly connect that increase to the pandemic.
"The nature of the shooting violence and homicides involves both instances in which we see conflicts in the street involving individuals we believe to be involved with gangs, and then to a lesser degree, some violence inside of homes," Moore said Tuesday during the L.A. Board of Police Commission meeting.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League is also hesitant to link the increase in murders to the pandemic, but the union says the rise in homicides as well as shootings may be the result of police defunding efforts.
"Now is not the time to be cutting budgets and taking a reactionary approach to these type of things because we're just going to see these crime rates increase," said Robert Harris, a director on the board of the LAPPL. "We're going to continue to see people lose their lives."
Moore says his staff is looking into possible economic stresses caused by the pandemic as reasons for the rise. He also suspects the pandemic closure of the city's Summer Night Lights program may have played a part as well.
"It's proven to be in my view an absolute influencer in reducing instances of turmoil and conflict in neighborhoods," Moore said.
Meanwhile, the number of child and spousal abuse cases is down 9% compared to last year, but Moore worries this drop may be deceptive. Because schools and other public places are closed, there may be fewer opportunities for people to spot signs of abuse.