Rise in crime in Melrose, Fairfax districts sparks virtual community meeting with LAPD

Members of the Los Angeles Police Department met virtually with community members who live or work in the Melrose and Fairfax districts and are concerned about the recent rise in crime in the area.

Captain Shannon Paulson was one of the attendees and said crime all across Los Angeles is rising. Statistics show a 26% increase in homicides and a 141% increase in shootings.

"The City of Los Angeles has seen a sizeable increase in violent crime, specifically shootings and homicides. There is some conjecture as to how that's related to the tension stemming from COVID-19, from the closure of businesses etc., but it is definitely been a marked increase over the last roughly six months," said Paulson.

Neighbors and business owners within the Melrose corridor are particularly concerned with the rise in recent robberies and homicides.

According to Senior Lead Officer, Ian O'Brien, the area that includes La Cienega to the west, La Brea to the east, Beverly to the south, and the southern border of West Hollywood to the north, has seen a 70% increase in robberies this year to date compared to last. Some recent robberies include Rolex watches.

"The suspects are very definitely targeting very specific Rolex watches so by all indications, they're casing and identifying our victims. The victims are pedestrians, in and out of stores. We do have leads on these robbery cases. We are diligently following up on those leads. We've had resources in the area in direct response to all of these incidents," said Paulson.

In regards to the recent homicides, Paulson said three have taken place on December 15, 2020, January 12th, 2021 and February 26, 2021.

"In regards to the homicides, I can tell you every one of them has been solved and every one of them involves suspects already in custody," said Paulson.

The December incident involved two victims, both men in their 20s visiting from out of state. It was an attempted robbery, and one of the victims had his own gun. Paulson said there was a shooting and one of the victims suffered serious injuries, and the other one died from his injuries. The suspects, in that case, have been arrested and were also involved in another gang-related shooting, according to Paulson.

The January incident appears to be a road rage incident.

"This was the car to car shooting at Sierra Bonita and Melrose. It was an unknown dispute between these two cars, and the suspect vehicle ended up firing one shot at the occupants of the victim's vehicle," said Paulson.

Paulson said the victim was a 21-year-old man and not a gang member. The suspects drove off in an SUV. Police said the suspects were from out of state and recently moved to the area to rent an apartment. They are both in custody.

The most recent homicide in February involved an up-and-coming Atlanta rapper, Nazeer Defares, 24. Police said he was shot and then pushed from a moving vehicle on Rosewood.

"There doesn't appear to be any relationship to that given area [Rosewood] and I hate to say it, it was kind of by chance that that crime scene occurred right there on Rosewood. This does appear to be a dispute possibly over money," said Paulson.

Paulson said the suspects are also from Georgia, visiting the area from out of state, and knew the victim.

"Those suspects were taken into custody just in the last couple of days and again they have been charged with murder," said Paulson.

Paulson said there is no connection between any of the recent homicides.  

LAPD has responded to the rise in violence with a heavier police presence in the area, both with plain-clothes officers and uniformed officers.

"We've been putting a lot of resources up in the Melrose area, obviously the mounted unit. We've attempted to increase foot patrols as well as utilizing some of our more proactive observational units. We're also using vice and narcotics units," said O'Brien.

While there is a rise in violent crime in the Melrose area, Officer O'Brien said there has been a decrease in property crime and burglary theft for motor vehicles.

The virtual meeting included more than 250 members from the public who submitted questions ahead of time to the LAPD officers. 

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