The average number of shootings Los Angeles saw on a weekly basis doubled from February to March, particularly in the area of South L.A. where rapper Nipsey Hussle was fatally shot earlier this week, authorities said Tuesday.
The surge in violence comes despite an overall reduction in crime in recent years, officials said, with the last few weeks seeing a particularly high number of shootings reported in the 77th Street Division of the Los Angeles Police Department, officials said. The division encompasses parts of Vermont Square, Gramercy Park, Manchester Square and surrounding areas of South L.A.
It also includes Hyde Park, where Hussle was killed just outside his store on Sunday. The suspect in the fatal shooting, Eric Holder, was arrested Tuesday afternoon.
In January and February, Los Angeles saw an average of 13 shootings a week, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said.
"That number, while it may sound high ... was at or below last year's numbers and the year before — substantially," Moore said.
But that number doubled in the month of March, with an average of around 26 shootings a week, Moore said.
"We’ve seen a recent increase in shooting violence in South Los Angeles in 77th (division) and particularly impacting African American men," Moore said. "And it was causing us growing concern."
The 77th division that includes more than a dozen South L.A. neighborhoods saw an average of just under five shootings a week in January and February, Moore said.
In March, that number more than doubled. An average of nearly 15 shootings a week were reported there, according to Moore. "Nearly all of it is gang-related," he said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said he's "deeply concerned" over the increase, promising to work better with community leaders, churches, gang interventionists and others with close ties to the people who "live and play in parks in these neighborhoods and are living in these neighborhoods."
"Even though we see homicides down this year to date by over 17 percent, there have been 11 homicides throughout the city in the last week alone," he told reporters.
Meanwhile, the crime spike was described by L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas as "intolerable."
"There's no point in trying to minimize its impact," Thomas said. "We have to be vigilant in our pushback, imaginative in that regard."
Thomas touted efforts by the L.A. County Department of Public Health's Injury and Violence Prevention Program to stem crime and assist the loved ones of victims. He also said the department has extended its closing hours from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Garcetti pointed toward efforts such as a five-year policing program LAPD officers receive in Harvard Park, a South L.A. neighborhood once considered one of the city's deadliest. No homicides were reported there in 2017, he said.
"This is an assignment of five years for officers so they can get to know the names of people in that neighborhood and vice versa," Garcetti said. "And those relationships have turned a corner in Harvard Park."
According to police and city officials, Nipsey Hussle was working to improve relations between LAPD and communities it polices.
Steve Soboroff, president of the LAPD Commission, said he was scheduled to meet with the late rapper and Roc Nation as part of those efforts on Monday.
"I was ready for the meeting. I was excited about the meeting," Soboroff said, telling of his shock and sadness upon learning of Hussle's death Sunday afternoon.
"One day before we had this meeting. Why couldn't we have the meeting the day before instead of after?"
Supervisor Thomas joined Soboroff and other officials in saying the city and county are trying to be proactive in the wake of Hussle's death.
"Our work is cut out for us and we will not shrink ... starting with the area that’s often described as South Los Angeles," Thomas said.