Local Gun-Related Crimes Increase as Pandemic Subsides

Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
Burbank police responded to an incident in which a man was shot and killed in his apartment in late January. A significant rise in the number of recent gun-related crimes appears to be partly due to the easing of pandemic restrictions, a police spokesman said.

Burbank has experienced a striking increase in the number of gun-related crimes so far this year compared with the same period last year, according to local police.

There were three crimes involving a firearm from the beginning of 2020 through May 18 that year, Sgt. Emil Brimway of the Burbank Police Department told the Leader. In the same period this year, there were 15 such incidents. Nine of those were related to a robbery, attempted robbery or carjacking.

Gun violence has also surged in Los Angeles and in other cities across the country, the Los Angeles Times reported this month. Experts have pointed to COVID-19 pandemic-related factors as accounting for the increase of firearm-related crimes, something Brimway echoed in an email to the Leader.

“Firearm-related crimes have increased throughout the Southern California region when compared to 2020,” he said. “The cause appears to be related to the easing of lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Brimway also pointed to thefts of firearms and the use of homemade, untraceable “ghost guns” as contributing factors. He further suggested that Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s elimination of cash bail and laws allowing the early release of violent criminals have augmented the number of gun-related crimes.

The spokesman did not reply to requests for information on the number of recent firearm-related crimes in Burbank that have resulted in arrests or the number of gun-related crimes in 2019.

The most recent firearm-related crime in Burbank through May 18 was what authorities called a murder attempt on May 17. Brimway said the BPD received a report about gunfire in the 200 block of West Elm Avenue at about 6:30 p.m. Officers confirmed a shooting had occurred, but no one had been struck by gunfire, according to Brimway, who added that the incident didn’t appear to be a random act of violence.

The investigation was ongoing as of last week. No further information was available.

TRACKING VIOLENT INCIDENTS

Data Source: Burbank Police Department

There may be some early signs of a decrease in local violent incidents, however. The sum of violent crimes reported to the BPD in April was less than half of the March level, according to the most recent data publicly available, though such incidents have been more frequent this year than in the previous two years.

There were a total of nine major violent crimes reported in April, BPD data shows. Six of those incidents were classified as aggravated assaults and the other three as robberies. In contrast, there was a 2021 high of 21 violent crimes reported in March, including 12 robberies.

From January through April, there were 64 violent crimes — composed of rapes, murders, aggravated assaults and robberies — reported, compared to 51 during the same period last year, 61 during that period in 2019 and 82 during that period in 2018.

The total number of reported “Part 1 index crimes” — a selection of seven major incident types commonly used by law enforcement to gauge an area’s experience with crime — was 208 last month, down from 234 in March.

So far this year, crime reports have remained roughly flat compared with the number in most previous years. Through April, the BPD received 934 Part 1 index crime reports, up from the 874 in 2020 but relatively close to the 932 in 2019 and 924 in 2018.

Auto thefts dipped from 28 in March to 26 in April, as did burglaries from 22 to 18 between those months. Thefts, by far the most frequently reported Part 1 index crime in Burbank, fell slightly from 163 in March to 155 in April.