Just a couple of days after a man was shot in their neighborhood, residents on the 400 block of South Street in North Long Beach said they constantly glance over their shoulders, giving a wary look to others while walking up and down the streets.
Most refuse to talk about the shooting, fearing that they may be targeted.
“My boss told me not to talk about it with anyone,” one business worker said, his eyes shifting back and forth between the register and the door.
With Tuesday’s shooting in North Long Beach, the city has reported 14 homicides during the first three months of 2022, eight more than there were at this time in 2021, according to data from the Long Beach Police Department. The department has made arrests in 10 of the 14 homicides, LBPD Special Investigations Division Commander Gregory Schirmer said.
“At this point, I’m just not sure that we’re able to determine why we’re increasing in our homicide rates,” said Schirmer, who pointed out that shootings were down 24% compared to this time last year. “I do believe that many of these are isolated events and that our community can feel safe.”
The Long Beach Post has been tracking shooting data through public records requests submitted to the Long Beach Police Department at the end of each month. The shooting data for January revealed that shootings actually rose to start off the year, and North Long was one of the areas most affected, along with the West, South and Central regions, which Schirmer attributes to it being some of the city’s more densely populated areas. Still, gun violence overall has eased compared to the height of the surge last winter when the city experienced 110 shootings.
Since that major spike in shootings, the LBPD has put an emphasis on gun violence prevention programs. And although the LBPD says gun violence has gone down, there has been an increase in shooting deaths over the last year and the department is pointing at so-called ghost guns—or guns that aren’t traceable—as one of the many reasons. In fact, Schirmer said that he believes ghosts guns have made up at least 25% of the firearms the LBPD has seized this year.
As a result, the City Council could begin the process of creating a new local law that would criminalize the production and possession of ghost gun parts and also put the city’s support behind pending statewide legislation as early as next Tuesday’s meeting. LBPD Chief Wally Hebeish said during a Public Safety Meeting last month that the idea behind the law is that it would allow police to track the parts from creation to crime.
If the current trends continue, Long Beach could see nearly 50 homicides this year, an increase from the 38 reported in 2021.
But police are looking to prevent that by working with community leaders and city partners to find out more about why crimes occur in their neighborhoods rather than wait for them to happen.
“I think our goal is to have none and that’s what we always target,” Schirmer said. “We’re not just working with partners to be reactionary, we’re trying to be proactive.”