Chula Vista police worked 10 homicides in 2020 – that’s more than triple the city’s average of three homicides a year.
“2020 was really an unusual year,” said Lt. Miriam Foxx of CVPD's criminal investigations division. “We haven’t had numbers that high in at least 10 years.”
Why the spike in homicides?
“That’s a great question,” Foxx said. “We don’t know. We have no idea.”
Foxx said the cases range in suspect and victim ages, relations, weapons – you name it.
“There’s really no pattern to them,” Foxx said. “So we really don’t know.”
“This really is a national trend,” said AH Datalytics cofounder Jeff Asher, who studies national crime numbers every year. “Usually it’s more of an academic examination rather than an examination of a national tragedy.”
Asher studied 57 police agencies across the country and came up with a grim finding: Murder shot up 36.7% in 2020 from the year before. That's huge when you consider that before now, the largest year-to-year increase in homicides was less than half that: 12.7%.
“This year, we’re really seeing something really unprecedented,” Asher said.
The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice recently published a report discussing the national murder spike.
Chula Vista is among the cities studied by the commission. Unfortunately, its murder increase far exceeds that of any other city studied.
Still, Asher said, it’s important to frame this nationally.
“This is a big thing,” Asher said. “It’s not just that the murder rate went up in New York. When you try to explain it, you have to explain why it also went up in Chula Vista.”
Asher believes the culprit is a combination of issues including pandemic economic stress and distrust in police, which hit a fever pitch last summer.
“The easy answer is: It’s complicated,” Asher said.
While the year-to-year murder hike is alarming, it's important to keep it in context. Last year's figures were still about 40% below the all-time high homicide rates, which occurred in the '80s and '90s.
Of the 10 homicide investigations last year in Chula Vista, police have made five arrests and issued two arrest warrants. Three cases remain unsolved.