Despite a slight dip in overall violent crime, Long Beach saw an increase in murder and aggravated assault in 2020, as well as a rise in property crime, the police department announced Wednesday, releasing statistics that aligned in some ways to crime increases in other U.S. cities.

“Year-end citywide crime statistics show that the pandemic may have played a significant role as crime began to shift in late spring,” a Long Beach Police Department statement said. “Similar to many major cities across the nation, we are experiencing an increase in crime here in Long Beach.”

While overall violent crime dropped by 1.4% from 2019, aggravated assaults rose by 18.6% — from 1,131 in 2019 to 1,341 in 2020 — and murders rose slightly, from 34 to 36, or 5.9%, according to the department. Roughly 31% of the homicides happened during disputes that became violent, LBPD said.

A 12.1% increase in overall property crime over 2019 resulted in part from an increase in vehicle, commercial and garage burglaries, as well as a rise in grand theft auto.

Chief Robert Luna said the department remains “committed to serving our community, reducing crime, and continuing to build partnerships through public safety.

“As we move forward, we will continue our focus on building on our community partnerships, improving data-driven crime impact, and will also continue to look at new technology like our incoming records management system, which will allow us to better identify and impact crime trends,” Luna said.

The department highlighted several areas where it focused resources in 2020, including toward a proactive COVID-19 response, removing firearms from people prohibited from possessing them, implementing progressive training and policies and homeless outreach efforts.

Police said officers seized more than 850 firearms in 2020 and made 295 arrests for prohibited gun possession, which is 40% more than the prior year. The department attributed the increase in aggravated assaults to a rise in gun violence.

Included in the LBPD’s updated training and department guidelines were the implementation of a bias-free policing policy and revision of its uses of force and vehicle pursuit policies, among other changes.

The department also highlighted its introduction of a looting task force “with the sole purpose of conducting criminal investigations for significant crimes committed during the civil unrest experienced the night of May 31,” when protests broke out across the nation following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The task force made 60 arrests and submitted more than 125 cases to the district attorney or city prosecutor from its efforts, police said.

“As we move through 2021, we recognize economic challenges will become even more significant,” the department said. “Therefore, the Long Beach Police Department will remain committed to the safety and well-being of all residents and visitors.”

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