LONG BEACH, Calif. — Alberto Loya, a cook at Hooters in Long Beach, was working on June 27 when a drive-by shooting nearby left three people wounded and diners frightened.

What You Need To Know

  • Crime and gun violence has increased across the nation, including the city of Long Beach

  • One drive-by shooting witness in Long Beach said that although he was shocked at the moment, he does not feel any less safe in the city and believes it was random

  • Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said the pandemic's complexities, including the release of prisoners, is a factor in the increase in violence

  • Long Beach locals said the community is a generally quiet and calm place

"I wasn't really scared. I was more like confused. I didn't realize what happened until much, much later. I just did the best I can to help people who were there. There were people who were crying, people who were scared," he said. 

The Pike Entertainment District in Long Beach, located right next to the harbor, is a peaceful atmosphere caught in an unexpected surge of violence. Like other cities across the country, Long Beach has been experiencing an increase in crime and gun violence.

Yet, Loya said what he witnessed on that day has not changed his feelings of safety in Long Beach.

"I feel safe. I can't control what other people are going to do. Anything can happen to me, anything. I just got to live in the moment and try the best I can to deal with it, take it in," Loya explained.

Meanwhile, the nearby Long Beach Police Department has been doing what it can to deal with the surge in violence.

Police Chief Robert Luna said his team has been busier than ever. He said the pandemic's complexities, including the release of prisoners from jails, have been a key factor in the recent surge of violence.

"Well, think about this. The question I ask is, 'Where did all those prisoners go?' They come out into our communities. A community that is already impacted by unemployment, by the lack of services, no school. And you put all this in a crockpot together, and I think that's why you see the numbers going up, not only in Long Beach, in the entire region," Luna said.

As of June 28, the Long Beach Police Department has seized 528 firearms. That is up 51% from 2020 when there were 349.  

It is a part of an overall effort by Luna and his team as they work overtime to address the rise in criminal activity.

Loya said that after seeing some of the protests erupt in violence last year, he believes anything could happen.

"You saw a crowd of people marching down these streets, and that's how bad it could be. But other times, like right now, it's peaceful, quiet and sunny," he said.