In a year in which the number of homicides plummeted across California, a few communities were outliers in 2013, leaving crime experts puzzled and some residents on edge, says the Los Angeles Times. In Pomona, a city of 150,000 on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, killings jumped from 17 to 29. Communities patrolled by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department recorded a homicide increase of more than 40 percent. The numbers are all the more striking when compared with cities like Los Angeles, where homicides dropped to the lowest level since 1966. Even traditionally crime-plagued areas did well in 2013: Killing in Oakland dropped from 131 to 92, while Stockton saw homicides plummet by half to 32.
Criminologists said that upticks in Pomona and Riverside County are hard to explain, but that it is far too early to declare any major trends. In smaller communities, localized issues such as gang disputes and reduced police patrols can result in more homicides. Often it can take time for police to create strategies that bring down the violence, they said. “Homicides are often just a matter of inches about where a shot goes,” said criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. Robert Weisberg, who heads the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, said the jump in homicides should prompt a rethinking of how police patrol those areas. “Both of those increases — they’re humongous,” he said. “Nationally the trend is either flat or down, which makes it even more anomalous.”