New Data: CA Crime Up and Arrests Down in 2021


California Attorney General Rob Bonta released the metrics of the state’s bump in crime during 2021 over four reports on Thursday. 

The four reports are Homicide in California, Crime in California, Use of Force Incident Reporting, and the Juvenile Justice in California statistical reports. They will serve as the information backbone policymakers will look to as they work to fix criminal justice-oriented problems around the state. The report was pushed back a month this year, to get in compliance with new Federal reporting standards. 

While public officials are first to come to mind, this data also is critical for community advocates. As they work to push needed resources to areas hit by crime and poverty, the data provides a clear picture of the necessity of lawmakers’ actions and who needs help the most — especially when it’s further stacked with other data sets like income and race. 

While the new system doesn’t have full coverage and reporting from all state law enforcement agencies yet, it’s on the way there. The new system already is providing a more accurate look into things and it will only continue to increase in quality. 

Coming out of the heart of the pandemic, many key categories saw a bump from 2020 to 2021. When releasing the reports, Bonta noted they’re still below historic lows. 

“Good data is a cornerstone of good public policy. I urge our partners across California to read these reports released today by my office,” said Bonta when releasing the data breakdowns. “While crime rates remain significantly below their historical highs, property and violent crimes continue to have devastating consequences for communities across the state. Gun violence in particular remains a consistent and growing threat. In fact, in 2021, nearly three-fourths of all homicides in California involved a firearm.” 

Bonta noted that in the work to be done, the reports represent a critical part of how California will calibrate its response.  

“At the California Department of Justice, we’re using every tool we have to prevent violence and combat crime in all its forms,” Bonta said. “Whether it’s successfully securing federal certification of our data systems or taking guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals, my office remains committed to doing our part to support safety and security for all Californians.”

Homicides

The Homicide in California report showed a 7.2% increase in homicides, to total 2,361 last year. The attorney general’s (AG) office noted that was way below the high of 4,095 in 1993. Kern County had the highest homicide rate in a county with over 100,000 at 13.7 per 100,000. Marin was the safest large county at .4 homicides per 100,000.

The reports listed 841 local homicides representing the highest murder rate in Los Angeles County in a decade, at 8.5 homicides per 100,000 people in 2021. Despite being in the middle of the pandemic, 2020 was the second-highest murder rate of the decade with 6.7 murders per 100,000. Los Angeles County accounted for 35.6% of California’s homicides in 2021.

Despite the rise in homicides, fewer people found themselves behind bars for the crime. The report noted a 2.9% decrease in homicide arrests from 1,597 in 2020 to 1,550 in 2021. Men represented the overwhelming majority of those arrested at 89.5%. Slightly more than half of those arrested for homicide were aged 18 to 29. 

Police officers were a part of 77 homicides deemed justifiable in 2021. The racial breakdown of those killed legally by law enforcement in 2021 was 51.9% Hispanic, 26% White, 18.8% Black, and 3.9% other ethnic groups. 

Five officers lost their lives in the line of duty to firearms.

Violent and Property Crimes

The wider Crime in California Report showed both violent crime and property crime were up in 2021. There were 466.2 violent crimes per 100,000 people, a 6.7% increase from 2020. The AG’s office again noted this was well below the 1992 historic highs similar to homicide when 1,103.9 violent crimes were happening per 100,000 people. 

Property crimes saw a 3% bump, too. 

But like homicides, arrests were down 7%. There were 792,797 arrests across all levels of offenses in 2021. Those arrests consisted of 266,845 felonies and 524,737 misdemeanors. The report pointed to Prop 64 for the 1,215 status offenses, such as minors getting caught with weed. 

The Use of Force

The Use of Force Incident Reporting 2021 showed 628 incidents where the use of force by a California peace officer caused serious injury or death of a civilian or officer. Almost half of those incidents, 47.8%, were during a call for service. Another 19.7% happened during the investigation of a crime or suspicious person. The remaining 15.4% occurred during a vehicle, bike, or pedestrian stop. 

Six-hundred-sixty civilians experienced the use of force during 2021. This was defined as the discharge of a firearm or the use of force resulting in serious bodily harm or death. More than half of the people that experienced the use of force by law enforcement in 2021 were Hispanic at 50.6%. White people accounted for just over a quarter at 25.5% and Black people accounted for 16.7%. 

Juvenile Justice 

The final report on Juvenile Justice shows 31,370 referrals of juveniles for probation in 2021. Of the 19,355 juveniles arrested in 2021, 47.5% received a felony charge, 46.5% received a misdemeanor. The other 6.3% were for status offenses, likely weed stuff.

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