Homicides in California increased by 31% in 2020, making it the deadliest year since 2007, according to state crime reports released Thursday. There were 2,202 homicides last year, 523 more than in 2019. The state’s homicide rate also rose from 4.2 to 5.5 homicides per 100,000 people.
2020 had the most homicides since 2007 – when 2,258 people were killed – and the rate was the highest since 2008, according to the new reports from the California Department of Justice. Black people made up 6.5% of California’s population but accounted for 31% of all victims last year. Hispanic people – who made up 39% of the population — accounted for 45%, while 16% were White.
Of the homicides where the contributing circumstance was known, 34.2% were the result of an argument, 28.2% were gang-related, 8.5% were connected to rape, robbery, or burglary, and 6.7% were domestic violence-related.
Overall violent crime (homicides, assaults, robberies, and rapes) increased slightly, while property crimes dipped 7.7% during the pandemic. Attorney General Rob Bonta said it was unclear why homicides jumped, but he argued the rise was connected to an increase in gun sales. Of the homicides where a weapon was identified, 74.2% involved a firearm – up from 69% in 2019.
“With more weapons, more economic stagnation, more desperation, I think those are all potential components and drivers of where we are today,” he said. The increase in homicides was also attributed to the low homicide total and rate in 2019. California’s 2019 homicide rate was the lowest since 1966, stated four experts from the University of California, Berkeley’s California Policy Lab in a related review.