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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Homicide Report?

The Homicide Report is an interactive map, database and blog that chronicles homicides in Los Angeles County. Any death deemed a homicide by the coroner’s office -- the death of a human being by the hand of another -- is included in the database. Coroner's officials currently are providing a bi-weekly list of homicides to The Times. At a minimum, the Homicide Report provides basic details of each killing. In addition, the report includes in-depth reporting of cases and communities, as well as updates when arrests are made and suspects are tried in court.

The report has changed a number of times over the years. It began as a blog, then evolved into a blog with a Google map to track killings. In fact, the original map was created by a reader and then followed by one of The Times’ first interactive mapping efforts. In January 2010, the report was converted into a searchable database with interactive maps allowing readers to sort killings by neighborhood, cause of death, race/ethnicity, age, gender, day of the week and more.

The latest version of the Homicide Report combines the best pieces of the map, database and blog to give readers a better sense or who is being killed and where. We have added neighborhood analysis that takes into account size and population density, giving readers a way to compare neighborhoods in a way nobody has been able to do before.

Why does the Homicide Report give the race/ethnicity of victims and suspects?

The report includes information on race or ethnicity of each homicide victim, as well as the name, gender, and age and the time, place and manner of death. A number of readers have asked why race is include and some have criticized the practice.

Racial information was once routinely included in news stories about crimes, but in recent decades newspapers and other media outlets stopped mentioning racial or ethnic information because of public criticism. Racial information came to be perceived as irrelevant to the reporting of crimes because it could stigmatize some racial groups.

The Homicide Report departs from this practice with the goal of presenting the most complete and accurate demographic picture of who is dying, and in some cases, who the suspected killer might be.

Race and ethnicity, like age, gender and where you live, are stark predictors of homicide risk.

According to Homicide Report data and reporting since 2007, Latinos, about half Los Angeles County’s population of about 10 million, have accounted for nearly half of all homicide victims.

Blacks, just 8% of the county’s residents, have accounted for 32% of all homicides. In 2013, blacks were killed at more than seven times the rate of all other racial and ethnic groups combined -- a fact that has remained stubbornly high as homicides have plummeted in the county.

Given the magnitude of difference in homicides along racial and ethnic lines -- and the suffering that the killing inflicts on family members, friends and neighborhoods -- we opt to present the racial and ethnic contours so conspicuous in the coroner’s data.

In making racial designations, The Times relies largely on the coroner’s designation. Occasionally, additional reporting from law enforcement or the victim’s family will lead us to make changes.

Why does the Homicide Report list killings by police?

The Homicide Report relies on the coroner’s designation in what we include in the database. Any death of a human being by another is included. The coroner’s definition also includes criminal homicides and justifiable homicides by civilians acting in self-defense.

A coroner’s investigation is separate from law enforcement. Coroner’s investigators take intent, as well as other factors, into account. To the coroner, “homicide” is a medical examiner’s term of art, not a legal concept.

Our homicide statistics sometimes differ from law enforcement because we use the coroner’s definition of homicide. In homicide data provided to the FBI, law enforcement agencies are not required to include officer-involved shootings.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses the same rationale as the coroner in its national mortality reports and includes justifiable homicides, police killings and other deaths. In 2010, the latest year for which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has published data, there were 16,259 homicides in the United States. The FBI reported 12,996.

The Homicide Report presents this larger data set for the county. For the 114 neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles, for example, the report counts 262 homicides in 2013, compared with 251 reported to the FBI. The higher total is a measure of lethal conflict between human beings in any form.

How does Los Angeles’ homicide rate compare to other big cities in the U.S.?

L.A. County accounted for nearly 32% of homicides in California and nearly 4% of all the homicides in the nation in 2012, the latest year for which the FBI has published statistics.

About 10 million people live in L.A. County, making for a high number of homicides when compared to other cities.

Over the last decade, homicide rates have plunged in Los Angeles County, as they have in most of the nation’s urban areas. In 1992 and 1993, peak years of a national homicide epidemic, the rates were more than double what they are today. There are, on average, almost two homicides daily in Los Angeles County now; six per day was the average in the early 1990s.

Some major cities have lower rates than city of Los Angeles, the county's largest municipality. For example, L.A’s homicide rate is not as low as New York City’s.

The average national homicide rate is 4.7 per 100,000. In the city of Los Angeles, the rate was 7.7 per 100,000 in 2012. In New York City, the rate was 5 per 100,000, according to FBI statistics and census data from 2012.

Citywide and countywide homicide rates are deceiving because, like all big metropolitan areas, Los Angeles County contains a combination of safe and dangerous neighborhoods. Areas with very few homicides, such as Brentwood, Malibu, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills Beverly Hills and Woodland Hills, form a patchwork with areas with a lot of homicides, such as Westmont, Watts, Vermont Vista, Broadway-Manchester and Green Meadows.

So when you scroll through the list of victims on the Homicide Report, think of the data not just as an L.A. picture but as an American one. This is the local version of a longstanding national homicide problem.

Are there cases in which a homicide reported by the coroner is not included?

Yes. In some cases, the coroner provides so little information that The Times may wait to include the case until additional details can be learned either from the coroner or law enforcement.

In addition, the coroner sometimes reports a death as a homicide when later investigation does not substantiate that conclusion.

When we initially transferred the blog into a database in 2010, if we had not previously written about the death on the blog we did not include coroner cases that had since been ruled not a homicide. This is was true of fewer than a handful of cases at the time.

The Times routinely gets updated information from the coroner in order to classify deaths correctly. We do our best to reconcile initial findings with final determinations. A death that is changed from a homicide to a non-homicide will still appear in the blog, but the change in status is noted and the death is no longer counted in our homicide tallies.

What about when someone is hit by a vehicle?

Someone killed in collision with a vehicle is typically considered to be a homicide only if authorities determine the driver had intentionally used the vehicle as a weapon. Criminal charges, including murder, may be filed after an investigation.

In some cases, the coroner may list the death of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle as a homicide from the start, as was the case of Alice Gruppioni, 32. Gruppioni was killed when she was struck by a car that drove into a crowd at the Venice boardwalk. Because police reported that the driver, Nathan Campbell, had turned himself in for what appeared to be a deliberate act it was deemed a homicide, said Ed Winter, a spokesman for the coroner’s office.

Campbell was charged with nearly three dozen felony counts, including murder.

Are some homicides included that were not on a coroner’s list?

Yes. In unusual instances, police report a homicide even though the coroner is not involved. This can happen if a body is not found. In other cases, details of a homicide are available from law enforcement officials before they are released by the coroner.

Why is the neighborhood reported in the post sometimes different than what appears on the map?

In 2009, The Times began working to standardize how the newspaper referred to neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles through the Mapping L.A. project. Readers were invited to help the staff get it right and as a result, 114 areas within the city of L.A. were defined with specific boundaries.

There are some posts that were written prior to the creation of the maps that may place an incident in another area or call the same area by a different name.

How did we calculate our neighborhood rankings?

Many crime statistics are reported per capita, or per person (usually something like "20 crimes per 100,000 residents"). The Homicide Report uses both per-capita crime rates and per-square-mile rates to give you an idea of crime per resident and crime as compared to the size of the neighborhood.

Typically those statistics are reported at a citywide level. In large cities such as Los Angeles, they might also be reported by police district.

The Times took several factors into account to analyze the rates of homicide throughout the 114 L.A. city neighborhoods and 158 other cities and unincorporated areas of L.A. County included in the report. All areas are ranked from highest rates of homicides to lowest based on the number of people killed over the time period, the population of the neighborhood, and the size of the neighborhood.

We use a simple formula known as the geometric mean. This lets us average the per-capita and per-square-mile rates in a meaningful way. After calculating the per-capita and per-square-mile statistics, we use the geometric mean to come up with a number by which we can then rank the neighborhoods.

The result gives a fuller picture of homicides at the neighborhood and countywide level.

On the main Homicide Report map, the rankings fall into three broad categories, high (red), medium (orange) and low (yellow). In some cases, there are two few residents (or too few homicides) in a neighborhood to calculate a meaningful rate. We left areas with fewer than 1,000 residents unranked because the rate would be too volatile. Homicides in those areas remain on the map and can be found on that neighborhood's page. Those areas are shaded gray on the map.

Are black vs. brown race tensions driving homicide?

No. Rarely are cases the result of racial tensions.

“The few black on brown or brown on black homicides that we have are usually gang-related or gang-motivated and driven by gang or narcotics disputes,” said LAPD Det. Sal LaBarbera, a detective supervisor in the Criminal Gang Homicide Division, which handled more than 40% of the city’s homicides in 2013.

LaBarbera said that in the jails and prisons, crimes are more likely motivated by racial tensions but rarely does the conflict spill into the street.

Tension between blacks and Latinos does exist in L.A. and sometimes, homicides result. For example, a string of racially motivated gang killings in Highland Park in the late 1990s went to trial in federal court in 2006.

History of the Homicide Report

The report was created in January 2007 by Jill Leovy as a reported blog. Leovy, who wrote nearly all of the unsigned posts from that year, launched the report as a way to balance crime coverage in the Los Angeles Times, where both tradition and the constraints of print space meant the focus of homicide reporting was on high-profile cases. The Homicide Report's aim from the start was to provide readers both a personal and a statistical story of who dies in violence. Leovy wrote posts regularly over the course of the next year and a half and established the Homicide Report as a key resources for readers.

Since then, the report has had several major contributors, including Anthony Pesce and Ruben Vives. Sarah Ardalani wrote the blog from 2009 to early 2013. Maloy Moore has been the report's researcher, maintaining the accuracy of the coroner's data. In June 2013, Nicole Santa Cruz was assigned to the project as a full-time reporter.

Ken Schwencke, a programmer on The Times Data Desk, wrote the code to create the latest version of the Homicide Report, as well as the version that debuted in January 2010. Lily Mihalik designed the current version.

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