LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Homicides and shootings continue to rise in major cities nationwide this year, and Las Vegas is no exception.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police report valley-wide murders are up 69% compared to this time last year, and they were up last year, too.
“Across the United States, we’ve seen a jarring increase in the number of homicides,” said Deputy Chief James LaRochelle, who oversees the investigative services division at LVMPD.
LaRochelle said Metro’s vision is to be one of the safest communities and destinations in America, but this year has proved a challenge.
As of Aug. 13, there have been 86 murders in their jurisdiction so far this year, compared to 51 for the same period last year.
“People shot is also an increase, so that is alarming,” LaRochelle said.
Larochelle said he believes the COVID-19 pandemic is playing a part in the increase. Murder was also up last year, with Metro seeing about 100 homicides in 2020.
“People’s tempers are shorter when you look at homicide. It is a crime of passion, spur of the moment. We see people being more aggressive,” LaRochelle said.
According to Metro’s statistics, there’s been a big jump — 133% — in the number of murders committed because of a perceived disrespect.
More often than not, Metro finds the person responsible for the crime.
Over the past two years, 93% of murders in the Las Vegas area have been solved, according to LVMPD. That’s a significantly higher rate than the national average.
“This is one area that Las Vegas does really well at … is that we go out and put handcuffs on bad guys, that we hold them accountable,” LaRochelle said.
In addition to finding and arresting killers, Metro is focused on high crime areas, he said.
“We do an analysis of where crime is occurring, and we put our police officers in those areas and often times that is our most challenged neighborhoods. That is not to say that enforcement is the priority it is the interaction with that neighborhood,” LaRochelle said.
Metro’s gang unit works to intercede in violence and prevent retaliation.
“We don’t see the retaliatory violence that you see in other major cities along the East Coast or like Chicago with the level of violence that they are having. We are able to respond quickly, with a sense of urgency, and relentless follow up and help quell that violence afterwards,” LaRochelle said.
The majority of murders investigated by LVMPD are committed using a gun.
“Seventy percent of our homicides are firearm related. That number has been pretty consistent over the years,” LaRochelle said. “Guns get in the hands of people that shouldn’t have them, guns get in the hands of people who are angry or have mental illness or are stolen, so if we can prevent that from happening that is a good thing."
President Joe Biden met with local police leaders at the White House last month, encouraging them to spend some of the $350 billion in the COVID-19 Relief Plan earmarked for law enforcement to reduce gun violence in their communities.
"Our strategy provides including funding for law enforcement through the American Rescue Plan for states, cities to be able to hire police and pay them overtime,” Biden announced.
“That might be something that might be considered down the road but long term we also have to make sure it is something that can be sustained,” LaRochelle said about the funding potentially coming to the department.
Currently, Metro is not using that money, but LaRochelle said he hopes the City of Las Vegas and Clark County will look at using the one-time funding to build up troubled parts of the community.
“Social services in some of our most challenged neighborhoods, addressing poverty and homelessness would be aspect that may be wise to use that funding,” LaRochelle said.
During the pandemic, when doors are more closed than ever before, LaRochelle said Metro needs the public’s help especially protecting the most vulnerable.
“This year, we have experienced six homicides, murders of children underneath the age of 9. That is truly tragic,” LaRochelle said.
Six children between the ages of 2 to 9 have been killed this year, compared to zero last year, a jump that has been trying for the department, he said.
Metro asks the public to contact them if you think someone is the victim of child or domestic abuse.
LaRochelle said Metro is doing all they can to stop the rise in homicides and believes the numbers will eventually drop.
“Crime rates can be cyclical. They can go up and down, but certainly any uptick in violent crime is alarming,” LaRochelle said.