LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In the first half of the year, homicides recorded by the Los Angeles Police Department hit the highest level in over a decade.
"181 murder victims. We're on pace for a 15 year high. This is very, very scary for our city and it's scary for the residents that we are supposed to protect," said Sgt. Jerretta Sandoz with the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
According to an Eyewitness News analysis of the most recent Los Angeles Police Department data, there were 181 homicides in the first six months of 2022, compared to 180 in the first six months of 2021.
While these two time periods had almost the same number of recorded homicides, they represent a 29% increase from 2020 and a 34% increase from the average of the same time period between 2015 and 2019.
A similar analysis by Crosstown, a nonprofit news organization based at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, found this trend is on track to surpass the highest level of murders since 2007.
LAPD data shows about 23% of the homicide victims were categorized as unhoused.
That's about the same rate as in 2021, and slightly more than the share from 2019 and 2020, when about 16% and 19% of homicide victims were recorded as homeless.
Of the homicide victims in the first half of the year, most of them - 158 - were male.
More than three-quarters of the homicides so far this year involved some type of firearm, which is consistent with previous years.
The increase in homicides - with many linked to gun violence - comes right after a year of increased gun sales, though in California it's likely not the only factor.
FBI data shows that in 2020 California saw a slight increase in firearm background checks - the best measurement available for gun purchases - at about 1.6 million. However, the largest peak by far was in 2016 at 2.4 million.
Lawanda Hawkins with Justice for Murdered Children says communities of color are hit the hardest by surging murder rates.
LAPD data shows that since at least 2020, about a third of homicide victims were Black men, although they make up just 4% of the Los Angeles city population.
Additionally, nearly half of all homicides in 2021 and 2022 occurred in four LAPD divisions: Hollenbeck, Newton, 77th Street and Southeast.
"Let's keep it real, if we are going to increase mental health, which I say 'OK,' then you need to increase law enforcement, too. Especially when we have an increase in homicides and we have an enormous increase in gun violence," Hawkins said.
For fiscal year 2022-23, the Los Angeles Police Department budget is $1.88 billion, representing almost 16% of the total city budget, the most of all other city departments.
This is after a slight 5% cut in fiscal year 2021-22, when the department's budget was about $1.76 billion and represented about 15% of the city's budget.
However, an ABC7 analysis of historical crime and budget data shows little relationship between changes in police department funding and changes in crime.
But according to activist Najee Ali, "at the end of the day, the majority of residents in South L.A. have always stated that we want more police. We just don't want police mistreating us and abusing us."
Note: The LAPD open crime data does not represent all crime that has occurred, just those that have been reported to and by police.
City News Service contributed to this report.