By Anna Giles

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (CBS13) – Behind the scenes of COVID 19 is a battle for justice.

San Joaquin County authorities tell CBS13 they’re seeing a surge in homicides connected to economic and psychological damage the virus leaves behind.

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Two teenagers were shot dead within days of each other. One of the shootings happened in a fast-food drive-thru.

This is just a small snapshot of the homicide surge hitting San Joaquin County during COVID-19.

“It’s an economic pandemic, a physical pandemic, and a psychological pandemic,” said San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar.

In 2018, homicides had dropped 40 percent from the year before. 2019 maintained that decrease, but in 2020, the number of homicides was 66 percent more than in 2019.

Dozens of people have been killed.

“So many of them were family-driven. So much of the violence that we saw was between people that had some sort of existing relationship,” said Verber Salazar.

She says help and resources need to be focused on communities suffering the loss of life, jobs, and in-person schooling.

“I think people underestimated the psychological impact of the pandemic,” she said.

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Many homicide victims and suspects are 17 years old or younger.

“What I’ve been finding is parents need more help now more than ever and the kids are just lost,” said John Norman with the group Raising Youth Resilience.

Raising Youth Resilience helps students and their families try and navigate the hardships.

“There’s nowhere to hide,” said Norman. “We’ve had some parents that have lost their loved one. I’ve got one student at Chavez whose father suddenly passed away.”

“Some are doing well and others are struggling and it’s in those situations where we really have to focus our services to lift these people up,” said Verber Salazar.

The district attorney’s office visited some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by homicide — handing out basic needs. Law enforcement is turning to schools to engage students about mental health.

They’re finding answers outside of violence.

“The magnitude of this pandemic has affected us at every level,” said Verber Salazar.

“Time time now is to get up, rise up, and overcome this,” said Norman.

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The DA says despite a huge spike in homicides, other crimes have decreased or remained stable. That includes residential burglary, possibly because more people are home most of the day.