A story for every victim

Weekends are the deadliest time for Latinos

The first to be killed on the weekend of Dec. 20 was 17-year-old Erik Sainz, who was shot in the driveway of a West Puente Valley home that Friday afternoon. Then came Matthew Albert Garcia, 26, who was found dead on the sidewalk in Rosemead about an hour before sunrise on Saturday.

Before the weekend ended, two more people — a 37-year-old man and a 16-year-old youth — would be shot to death.

What each victim that weekend had in common was ethnicity.

The average Latino homicide victim in Los Angeles County is 15% more likely to be killed on a weekend — defined here as Friday, Saturday or Sunday — than victims of other races or ethnicities, according to a Times analysis of the more than 13,000 Los Angeles County homicides recorded from 2000 to 2014 in the Homicide Report.

Across the county, Latinos make up 49% of the victims since 2000. Blacks were 34%, whites were 12% and Asians were 4%. (The percentages don't add up to 100 because of rounding and other factors.)

Without considering race, almost as many people are killed Mondays through Thursdays as on weekends in Los Angeles County.

But the numbers break down inconsistently across the races and ethnicities in the database. The Homicide Report classifies victims by race as defined by the county coroner, which includes Latino as a race designation, unlike the U.S. Census, which treats Latino as an ethnicity.

Percent of victims killed by day of week, 2000-2014

All victims Latino Black White

Source: L.A. Times Homicide Report Armand Emamdjomeh / @latdatadesk

More than 53% of Latino victims were killed on the weekend, a significantly higher percentage than all other groups. When considering only black victims, the proportion is much lower — less than 47%. Just 44% of white victims died on weekends.

That more homicides occur on the weekends than during the week is not a new idea. People aren't at work and are more likely to get in trouble, the thinking goes.

“It doesn't matter how you slice and dice it, the weekend is where the action is,” said Charis E. Kubrin, a professor of criminology at UC Irvine.

But why do some groups see more homicides on the weekend?

If the explanation lies in the difference in employment rates among various demographics, government statistics don't offer perfect clarity.

Although Latinos have a higher unemployment rate than the Los Angeles County average, statistics from the California Employment Development Department show that their participation in the labor force — the percentage of those employed or actively seeking work — is greater. But those tallies don't account for the estimated 900,000 residents living illegally in Los Angeles County, the vast majority of whom are Latino. (The Homicide Report doesn't have numbers on the immigration status of victims.)

But one expert does point to employment and leisure schedules at the root of the issue.

“What leisure time they do have, especially [Latino] males, is concentrated in and around the weekend and weekend nights in particular,” said Ramiro Martinez Jr., a criminologist at Northeastern University who has observed similar crime trends in the Latino community.

The weekend trend isn't confined to Los Angeles County, according to Martinez, author of the book “Latino Homicide.” A similar phenomenon occurs not only in major southwestern cities such as San Antonio and San Diego, but also in cities with different immigrant demographics — such as Miami, which has a large Cuban population.

“It's interesting because there [in Miami] the immigrant population is older,” Martinez said. “You see immigrant Latino males in their 40s and 50s getting into fights at bars and the same sort of escalation-type of killings among younger Latino males in L.A. or the southwest.”

In Los Angeles County, the deadliest weekend of last year began Nov. 7. From Friday through Sunday, six Latinos were among the 13 people killed. In the preceding weekdays, three people were killed — none of them Latino. Of the other victims, four were black, two were white and one was Asian.

Contact the reporters

Times staff writer Nicole Santa Cruz contributed to this report.

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