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August Was The Deadliest Month In Los Angeles In 8 Years

Photo by Peggy Archer via LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
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Los Angeles experienced its most deadly month in eight years.

The Los Angeles Times reports that thirty-nine people were killed across the city in August—a 7% increase from the beginning of the year. Nearly half of those killings occurred in South L.A. The last time the number of homicides in the city approached those numbers was in August 2007, when 41 people were killed.

According to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, many of this past month's deaths were likely due to gang violence. "You can't draw huge conclusions over one month," Beck told the Police Commission this Tuesday. "But the month of August hopefully does not portend what will occur during the following months of the year."

A report earlier this summer also indicated that after more than a decade of decline, the city has seen a rising trend in violent crime for the first time in 12 years. Some have pointed out, however, that those rising numbers may be at least partially explained by the more honest reporting of crime stats, following a recent L.A. Times investigation revealing that many violent crimes were downgraded to make the LAPD look like they were doing a better job than they were.

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While there's no definitive theory on why the numbers are increasing, there's a variety of forces at play that are likely affecting the recent dramatic rise. Journalist Joe Domanick takes an educated guess in a recent L.A. Times op-ed:

Something may be happening akin to the eras of the Watts riots of 1965, the high-crime crack war years of the 1980s and early '90s, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. And it's this: a new Gilded Age of obscene wealth, stunning, low-wage income disparity and grinding poverty have come together to make ghetto and barrio life ever more desperate. As a result, the steam is once again pressing against the engine cap, just as it did during those infamous times.

In response to the uptick in violence, the LAPD is deploying additional officers from their elite Metropolitan Division—as well as additional gang officers—targeting particularly violent neighborhoods in South L.A. Their hope is to reduce the number of retaliatory attacks.

The LAPD has also launched a command post in its South Bureau that will analyze crime data in the area in real time with the goal of increasing response times. Additionally, the department is working with gang intervention workers, local clergy and residents to address gang violence, which is up 15% this year according to police reports.

Concerns about the surge in violence continue as three people were shot in South L.A. around 3 a.m. this morning. Four people were traveling in a car near South L.A.'s Green Meadows neighborhood when another car pulled up next to them and shot at the vehicle. Two men and one woman within the car were hit by gunfire, and the second vehicle promptly fled, reports the L.A. Times. The victims were rushed to a nearby hospital, where one of the men—identified as 27-year-old Santyone Moore—died. The condition of the other passengers is unknown. Police say they are still investigating whether the shooting was gang-related.

There have been 15 homicides within a one mile radius of Friday's shooting over the past year, says a Times report. Though, according to KTLA, the shooting and the recent increase in violence have not been connected to the recent rumored threat on social media that there would be 100 days and 100 nights of violence in South L.A.

According to Domanick's op-ed there's no easy fix to the troubling trend:

In short, L.A.'s crime rise seems to be part of the same-old-same-old double-downed: raw poverty and rising crime again coming together in an era of astounding, Third World-like income disparity, declining social services and desperate poverty. We can continue to deny that undeniable truth. But the data are in, the pilot programs and studies completed. We now know definitely what needs to be done to stop the poverty and crime merry-go-round, and it's not more mass incarceration. We just aren't willing to pay the cost of systemically, permanently fixing it.