OOn April 26, 2020, Telish Garder, 49, was shot and killed at his home in South Los Angeles. Gardner had four daughters, the youngest of whom was only 14, and worked to fill up trucks for the city’s sanitation department. Two days later and a few streets away, Magali Alberto was in his car waiting for the light to change when three young men came to his side and fired several shots into his tinted windows. Police say the 28-year-old single mother was picked up at random.

The Gardner and Magali murders were two in four in 2020 in a census tract of just under half a square mile where black and Hispanic residents make up more than 95% of the population. In 2019, the same area experienced only one murder. Despite a statewide stay-at-home order, Los Angeles recorded 332 murders in 2020, a precipitous leap – 95 more lives lost in murders than the year before, according to city ​​crime data. Almost all of the increase in homicides has taken place in the black or Hispanic neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Across the country, other cities followed a similar pattern last year: a spike in killings, concentrated in black and Latino neighborhoods, according to an analysis by the Marshall Project.

In these cities, black neighborhoods saw the largest increase in the number of lives lost – 406 more than in 2019 – and Hispanic neighborhoods recorded nearly 200 more homicides than last year. White neighborhoods in all cities except Dallas have also seen an increase in homicides.

Since the national homicide rate hit an all-time high in the 1990s, the rate has been declining overall, finally halved from what it was almost three decades ago. It is too early to tell if the homicide spike in 2020 marks a turning point in this trend. Violent crime can fluctuate from year to year and it will take months or years to know if the increase was temporary. But experts say a tight social safety net, growing tensions, physical proximity and mistrust between police and communities of color played a significant role in last year’s killings. Law enforcement officials and officers attribute the spike, in part, to a crippled criminal justice system and a change in public attitudes towards the police service that has made it more difficult exercise of their functions.

“2020 has been a powder keg,” said Fernando Rejón, who heads the Urban Peace Institute, a violence prevention and social service organization in Los Angeles. “The multiple crises have exposed the gaps in public health and the gaps in public safety that have existed for generations.”