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Murders Jump 9% in State; Rise Laid to Drugs, Gangs

January 13, 1988|CAROL MC GRAW | Times Staff Writer

The number of willful homicides in California increased 9% in 1986, with Los Angeles County accounting for almost half of the 3,030 deaths, according to a report released Tuesday by the state.

Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp blamed drug and gang-related activities for the increases, noting that the percentage of homicides attributable to those causes has more than doubled since 1982, from 7.8% to 17.2% of all homicides in 1986, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Homicides attributed to other causes have declined, and without the drug and gang activities, the homicide rate would be lower than a decade ago, Van de Kamp noted.

At the same time, the number of arrests for murder decreased from 2,943 in 1985 to 2,805 in 1986, the report shows.

Drug Trade

"Until we can put a halt to the burgeoning drug trade and gang activity, the homicide rate will continue to reflect the misery that these forces inflict on our society," Van de Kamp said.

Figures indicate that the typical murder victim is a white male, 25 to 39 years of age, who was shot in his home by an acquaintance, according to the Bureau of Criminal Statistics.

Of the 2,785 homicides in which contributing factors were known, arguments accounted for 52.5%, followed by robbery, 13.5%; gang-related activities, 9.6%, and drug-related circumstances, 9.2%. The figures are based only on known circumstances, unlike the above 17.2 %, figure which is based on a percentage of all homicides.

The report also noted that people are more likely to be murdered in the state's 20 most populous counties--a rate of 11.4 per 100,000 population in the urban areas versus 6.6 per 100,000 in the rural counties.

There were 1,408 murders in Los Angeles County. The next highest figures were recorded in San Diego County, where 196 murders were committed; Alameda County, 174, and San Francisco, 114. Attempted murder, justifiable homicide, manslaughter by negligence and suicide were excluded from the statistics, officials said. Figures for 1987 are not yet available.

The report, which was compiled the the bureau from police crime reports, supplemental homicide reports and newspaper clippings, also notes:

- People are more likely to be killed on a Saturday or Sunday and during the last six months of the year.

- In 1986, 77.7% of the homicide victims were male.

- White victims accounted for 33.4% of the victims, followed by blacks, 31.5%, and Latinos, 30.1%.

- Wives were much more likely than husbands to be killed by their spouses (23.5% versus 2.1%.)

- Firearms accounted for 56.6% of the murder weapons, with handguns accounting for 45.2% of those weapons. Knives were used in 22.7% of the cases; blunt objects, 8%; hands, fists and feet, 7.5%, and ropes, 1.8%.

- Of the 2,805 people arrested for murder in 1986, 27% were white, 32.4% were Latino and 35.3%, black.

- Nearly 2,000 people were convicted of murder in 1986, 196 were acquitted and another 354 released from custody.

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