Brutal, brazen crimes shake L.A., leaving city at a crossroads

Crews of burglars publicly smashing their way into Los Angeles’ most exclusive stores. Robbers following their victims, including a star of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and a BET host, to their residences. And this week, the fatal shooting of 81-year-old Jacqueline Avant, an admired philanthropist and wife of music legend Clarence Avant, in her Beverly Hills home…

While overall city crime rates remain far below records set during the notorious gang wars of the 1990s, violent crime has jumped sharply in L.A., as it has in other cities. Much of the violence has occurred in poor communities and among vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, and receives little attention.

However, since the start of the pandemic and more rapidly in recent months, crime has crept up in wealthier enclaves and thrust its way to the center of public discourse in L.A. — against a backdrop of COVID-19 angst, evolving political perceptions of what role police and prosecutors should play in society and, now, a holiday season upon which brick-and-mortar retailers are relying to stay afloat.

Some wonder if this could be a turning point for California, which for decades has been at the center of the movement for criminal justice reform, rolling back tough sentencing laws and reducing prison populations.