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Sheriff Says LA County Homicides, Auto Thefts Spiked During Pandemic

Published on Thursday, January 13, 2022 | 6:06 am

Screenshot of the fatal shooting of a knife-wielding man in Altadena that took place shortly after the suspect had beaten and stabbed an elderly woman in a seemingly random attack in Altadena just north of the Pasadena city limit in January, 2021. [Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept.]
Homicides and auto thefts spiked from 2019 to 2021 in areas policed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Wednesday during a virtual town hall meeting.

The LASD provides law enforcement to the Metro trains and buses in Pasadena, to the county portion of East Pasadena, and to all of Altadena.

Villanueva presented year-end statistics for 2021 but said it was too early to draw any conclusions about trends in the first 12 days of 2022.

“Because we’re only two weeks into the first year, statistically it’s going to be all over the map,” the sheriff said.

Department data for the year ending Dec. 31, 2021 showed “a two-year jump — this is comparing 2019 to 2021 — that was a 94.24% increase in homicides, huge number,” Villanueva said. “A 64.88% increase in grand theft auto. That’s the bad news.

In 2019, there were 145 homicides recorded in the county, while there were 199 in 2020, according to sheriff’s department’s website. While Villanueva did not specify the number of 2021 homicides recorded, his math would put the total at around 281.

There was also a 14% increase in aggravated assaults, though rapes and robberies dropped 11.7% and 24.1%, respectively, according to the sheriff. As a result, overall violent crimes were up roughly 1%, he said.

“A lot of these have to do definitely with the pandemic and just the changing societal patterns of behavior, and who’s at home and who’s not,” Villanueva said.

The 2019 statistics reflect a pre-pandemic world, while 2021 included the winter surge in cases that prompted restrictions on businesses and gatherings as well as a more open public health stance going into the summer.

“We had a big drop in burglaries, 19.39% because, duh, everybody’s home,” Villanueva said, pointing to a drop in larceny and theft for the same reason.

Still, property crimes were up slightly, with a 4.35% increase over the two years.

“So there was a mixture of good news and bad news, and the bad news part is primarily the homicides and the violent crime component,” he told listeners during the town hall streamed on Facebook and Instagram Live.

Villanueva said the data would be posted on the LASD website at and on social media.

The full year report has historically included a breakdown of crime by patrol station, city and individual type of crime as well as additional material on demographics and the percentage of cases closed.

LASD patrols all unincorporated areas of the Los Angeles County and provides law enforcement services under contract to 42 of the 88 cities countywide as well as to Metro.

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