2007 City Crime Rankings Released

And Oakland moves down a slot, to number five on the list!

Doubtlessly, this news will result in the same litany of excuses from the Mayor and Police Chief that we heard last year about how the rankings (PDF) aren’t accurate and besides, most of the good citizens of Oakland can rest easy at night, safe and sound, because crime isn’t a problem in their neighborhood. Remember this gem from last year:

In Oakland, police Chief Wayne Tucker said people might be misled by the report.

“The department is always interested in how we’re being rated,” he said, “but I think a rating can be very deceptive.”

He said being ranked fourth on the list of dangerous cities could easily lead people to believe the whole city is under siege from crime. Tucker said the reality is that crime is concentrated in “two reasonably small areas” in East and West Oakland.

We might also expect to hear, like we did last week from Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, that violent crime is down from last year. This was untrue last week, and continues to be untrue this week. Property crime is down, but violent crime is up.


That’s the comparison as of November 20th (xls).

Anyway, back to the rankings. This year’s top 10:

1. New Orleans, LA
2. Camden, NJ
3. Detroit, MI
4. St. Louis, MO
5. Oakland, CA
6. Flint, MI
7. Gary, IN
8. Birmingham, AL
9. Richmond, CA
10. North Charleston, SC

And as a reminder, here’s how Oakland fared over the last decade:

2006: #4
2005: #8
2004: #21
2003: #24
2002: #21
2001: ? (not in top 25)
2000: #28
1999: #24
1998: #22
1997: “#16
1996: #18

Anyway, I do agree that ranking cities as “most dangerous” or “safest” is a kind of silly thing to do. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with looking at the statistics and noting that we have more violent crimes per capita than almost any other US city or where our property crime rate per capita falls or anything like that, but I just find the way CQ Press phrases their list really odd. (Update: After I posted this, I saw that they’ve dropped the “most dangerous” and “safest” labels from the rankings. Oh well. The way these used to label their list was odd.)

In any case, when you read about this in the newspaper, and see everybody jumping up and down trying to discredit the rankings, like this:

“We don’t need a poll to tell us that public safety is the No. 1 issue in the hearts and minds of Oakland residents and the top priority for the mayor’s administration,” said Paul Rose, a spokesman for Mayor Ron Dellums.

He attacked the credibility of the report.

“The FBI questions the use of the statistics, which forces many to question the validity of such a poll,” he said.

Indeed, criminologists and law enforcement across the country pan the most-dangerous cities list when it is published every year. This year, the report looked at 378 cities with at least 75,000 people. Its conclusions were based on per-capita rates for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft.

Just remember that whether Oakland is more or less “dangerous” than Detroit (#3) or Atlanta (#16) or San Francisco (#102) or Berkeley (#132) or Los Angeles (#158) isn’t the point, and shouldn’t be the issue. The problem is that CRIME IN OAKLAND IS TOO HIGH, and that’s true regardless of any kind of ranking anyone wants to do, or any comparison to this year or last year or whatever year, or anything that happens in any other city.

BTW, it’s the Mayor’s birthday today.

42 thoughts on “2007 City Crime Rankings Released

  1. Matt D. of St. Louis

    As a resident of St. Louis, I can tell you we are personally disappointed by falling further down the list. We claimed the top spot two years ago and now we find ourselves slipping to four. Disappointing. However, we can take solace in the fact that they do not include East St. Louis in our rankings because it is across the river in Illinois. If that crime was counted, as it should be, then I am confident we would ascend to the top. As a consolation prize, we were recently named number one in rankings of STDs and near the top in Meth arrests. Gotta hold onto something!

  2. Max Allstadt

    Being a New Yorker, I’ve been to Camden (last year’s #5). I can say from experience that passing Camden on the road to recovery is not exactly an accomplishment.

  3. Myshel

    It can all come to a screeching halt they need to build more ADX SUPERMAX..were they house the worst of the worst. I was watching gangland on the history channel and they showed the gang called the GOTTI BOYS from NEW ORLEANS and as a Black Woman I never understood why the word nigger was used after watching that I understand now why the word exist …they were ignorant and atrocious! Grown Men in there 30′s talking about a gang and guns it was the most embarrasing thing I’ve ever seen. BLACK ON BLACK KILLING EACH OTHER FOR NOTHING>>>JUST STUPID They were worst then the KKK- Klu Klux Klan. The KKK looks like angels compared to them. GOD HAVE MERCY ON THERE SOULS

  4. Navigator

    These studies and rankings are unreliable, inconsistent in methodology, and only serve to denigrate certain cities. Unfortunately, Oakland is a city which loves to beat itself up over having crime like every other major city in this country has crime. San Francisco for example, is consistently ranked number one in crime after adjustments for demographics according to a study by the crime research department at Georgia State University http://www2.gsu.edu/~crirxf/HomRates-PR-2007-02-02.htm. but we never hear the San Francisco media pull THAT study out to rub San Francisco’s nose in it. One can argue that this study which takes into account demographics and relative wealth, is a far better gauge in determining how effective individual municipalities are in dealing with homicide.

    Oakland needs to deal with the crime issue without being too hard on itself. Oakland hysteria and self-loathing only plays into the hands of our competitors across the Bay. We need to the put crime stats into context. For example, in 1992 Oakland recorded 172 homicides. Oakland had a population of about 370,000 in 1992 compared to over 400,000 in 2008. Oakland has recorded 115 homicides so far in 2008. At least seven of those homicides are “justifiable” homicides which include police killings and self-defense killings. These justifiable homicides are not included in the FBI numbers at years end. Therefore, Oakland has recorded 108 non- justifiable homicides so far this year.

  5. Navigator

    Just to prove how worthless these rankings are, I recently read that Orlando Florida was ranked number six in violent crime with 190.5 violent crimes per 100,000 residents just behind Oakland’s 191. All of a sudden, presto, Orlando has magically disappeared from the crime rankings. You see folks, when you’re a tourist destination like Orlando or San Francisco, there are ways to bury certain rankings and studies which may not be too flattering to your tourist industry. I wouldn’t wrap fish with a copy of those rankings. They’re useless, and only serve to denigrate cities which are less influential and have less pull with advertisers and the media. Oakland needs to address it’s crime issue without obsessing over these meaningless rankings.

  6. Navigator

    I just saw the CQ Press rankings and somehow Orlando is NOW 18, and Memphis which was listed #3 ahead of Oakland just two weeks ago, in now number 14. Also , Flint, which was ahead of Oakland last week, in now “safer” than Oakland. Who does Oakland have to pay at CQ Press to have its rankings “adjusted?”

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    Navigator, I think you’re confused. CQ Press releases rankings annually. Last year’s list was based on Part I crimes reported in 2006. This year’s list was based on Part I crimes reported in 2007. I don’t know what this “two weeks ago” and “last week” you’re referring to. As for who Oakland has to pay for a better ranking – I’d suggest a new police chief.

  8. Navigator

    V, these were rankings for 2007. These were FBI rankings which ranked Oakland 5th and Orlando 6th in violent crimes. I remember being surprised that Oakland was virtually tied with the number one tourist destination in the Country. Oakland had 191 violent crimes per 100,000 residents while Orlando had 190.5 crimes per 100,000 residents. Also, Memphis was ranked ahead of Oakland, and NOW Memphis is ranked 14th in violent crime.

  9. ronoz

    “The New Orleans Police Department has a goal to lead the nation in violent crime reduction through the outstanding efforts of the men and women of the police department. Through progressive community involvement, the New Orleans Police Department has united the citizens, making New Orleans a safer place to live, work, and visit.”

    …The first paragraph of the New Orleans Police website…

  10. ronoz

    Of course it’s not a good idea to compare numbers out of context… but to compare secular trends is very revealing and relevant… as example, those who wonder about Orlando being a high crime city… they’re right…

    Keep in mind that property crimes like Burglary and Larceny are notoriously mis-reported, non-reported, and under-reported… and that varies pretty much per jurisdiction depending on confidence in police and efficiency of police. Oakland scores an “F” on both counts, so ignore those stats for Oakland…

    Looking at violent crimes, those likely to be reported… and choose 2004 as a benchmark, because Wayne Tucker didn’t take control of our OPD until Feb 6, 05…

    Orlando increased in violent crimes 2004-2007 +20%…
    Oakland under Tucker in violent crimes 2004-2007 +50%

    Now that’s meaningful….

    btw…

    New Orleans decreased in violent crimes 2004-2008 -32%…
    Oakland increased in violent crimes 2004-2008 +59%…

    [this is through Sept 30, 2008 for which both police websites offer statistics...]

    btw(2) Orlando does not provide police service to Disneyland, and Disneyland cops don’t carry guns.

    btw(3) Orlando citizen websites are demanding the police force be doubled… yet they have 50% more cops per population than Oakland.

  11. ronoz

    As per Tucker’s comment that crime is concentrated in East and West Oakland, this is likely more meaningful when comparing with Camden NJ… listed #1 as having the highest crime rate.

    Camden has about 22.2 violent crimes per thousand population. Oakland has about 19.2.

    Camden only has 75,000 people. Oakland has something a bit less than 400,000. So let’s cut a 75,000 population chunk directly out of the East Oakland flatlands…

    I think it’s a fair estimate that Oakland’s 75,000 in East Oakland is likely suffering from 50% of the violent crimes in Oakland. In 2007, that would amount to about 3,950 violent crimes… or about 53 violent crimes per thousand… that’s 137% higher than Camden’s 22.

    ok, for argument sake, drop it down to 40% of the violent crimes suffered there… then East Oakland citizens suffer only about 90% more violent crimes than Camden…

    I think you must get the point… Our flatlands suffer violent crimes and some seem to think that’s ok, as long as it doesn’t spill over into the north or hill areas… It is offensive to read that Tucker dismisses crime so casually as being confined to certain areas. If true, and unfortunately it is, then Tucker’s job is easier, not more difficult. A Chief needs to focus…

    btw…

    Camden’s poverty rate is 117% higher than Oakland’s. 38.2% of their population lives under the poverty level. Their unemployemnt rates are 80% higher than Oakland’s. Their population between the ages of 14 and 34 is 31% higher than ours. The point is that they should probably have double or more Oakland’s crime rate.

    btw(2) For those who think that adding more cops in itself lowers crime… Camden has 524 cops per 100,000 to Oakland’s 203. To equal Camden, Oakland would need 1,276 cops… and maybe then we could be #1.

    btw(3) from 2004 to 2007 Camden lowered their violent crimes -4%, and under Tucker in the same time period Oakland went up +50%.

    What are the lessons?

    1. Acknowledge we have a real problem.
    2. All demographic, social, economic, comparative, secular, and other dimensional correlations indicate we should have expected dramatic reductions in violent crimes since 2004.
    3. The only contra-indicator, the fly in the ointment, the constant during the paradigm escalation of violent crimes in Oakland has been the top leadership at OPD. He has changed OPD completely and it shows…

  12. ronoz

    To clarify… of course we can use 1,100 more cops.. or as many as we can get… However, we can do a whole lot more with the 803 we are budgeted…

    We won’t get the voters’ endorsement for more cops until we can turn OPD around into a motivated, efficient, and coordinated operation… and adding more cops without doing that will be an exercise in dilution.

  13. Patrick McCullough

    “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”
    All the misleading statistics slinging by our elected inept has finally paid off. The survey ranking Oakland as the 5th most dangerous city — down from 4th — shows a 20% decrease in crime (ranking). What an accomplishment. Break out the champagne.

  14. SF2OAK

    Rankings are rankings and fear is fear. There’s a poll on Oakbook do we want Guardian Angels- yes why look a gift horse in the mouth. How about yes because we need them. Instead of arguing whether or not we’re 4th or 5th in rankings let’s examine what Oaklnad does to fight crime. Do we have a fingerprint lab in operation? How about DNA lab? How about the software that sees crime patterns and is predictive is that up and running ? How is our conviction rate? How many parolees live in OAK, and what’s the ratio of parolee to supervisor?

  15. ConcernedOakFF

    How about we do what former Presidential Candidate John McCain proposed:

    Freeze spending. Only fund public safety, schools and health care. Essential Services Only.

    Then go line by line and figure out what we can cut. Then cut it!

    I would guess that we are wasting MILLIONS on superfluous stuff that can be better funneled into crime reduction/investigation/making people’s lives better in this city.

    Courtney Ruby has proven that she can find stuff to cut, USE HER!

  16. Ken O

    It’s clearly time for me to start a new petition in Oakland. And this time it won’t be changing the city ordinance on chicken ownership.

  17. Stevie Blunder

    ConcernedOakFF, that is not at all realistic. It’s always proposed by candidates, almost always by one party which usually runs “against government,” who never go out and actually do that line-by-line cutting. Not even when they’re governors or mayors. Across the country, and for decades. It’s a phony promise. Why? Because, once you see what is in the budget, you’ll see that there isn’t anything easy to cut. It’s almost all “essential.”

    Sure, you could certainly find a few things here and there…..but it would be a tiny fraction of the deficit. The

    Budgets are actually public everywhere across the US , I think. You can look at it. You might have to go to City Hall and request it, or something, but you could go look.

  18. ConcernedOakFF

    V – Measure K over-runs for one, and I am sure that there are others that she has found, but she does not have any authority to ‘cut”, just inform….

    Steve – I know is is somewhat unrealistic IF you want to fund things like Dj’s for neighborhood parties.

    I am sure that there are millions spent incorrectly or illegally in this city. Unfortunately others may find the same programs “essential”.

  19. Navigator

    Wow, in 2000 Oakland was # 28 in violent crime. In 2003 Oakland was # 24. Gosh, I don’t remember the local San Francisco media EVER anointing Oakland as a “safe” city back in those years, or any other years I can remember in my lifetime. As a matter of fact, the San Francisco centric media has always portrayed Oakland as “dangerous” and “crime ridden” to Bay Area residents, regardless of the crime rate. As a matter of fact, in the comments section of the San Francisco Chronicle concerning the latest San Francisco homicide which occurred early Monday morning in North Beach, many of the San Francisco posters are blaming the decline of North Beach, along with this homicide and increasing violent crime, on the “Bridge & Tunnel crowd” One poster even blamed the violence on people coming over the bridge from the “Fourth most dangerous city” in the Country.

  20. oaklandhappenings

    Since Tucker went on leave, Oakland’s homicide rate has gone down, and perhaps the other serious crimes as well. I don’t know for sure if [Howard] Jordan is more effective than Tucker, but I am guessing that he can’t be any worse. At least he doesn’t talk a bunch of bullsh*t and inaccuracies, as Tucker often does. If Oakland can finish the year with no worse than 115 unjustifible homicides, I will call it a small step in the right direction. As Ron Dellums mentioned, the steps that they have taken, plus a hopefully still-larger police force, may reduce the need for officer overtime, hence officer fatigue. It will be an interesting snowball effect. I think that next year, the city will finally finish under 100 homicides again.

  21. V Smoothe Post author

    Crime has not gone down, our crime rate continues to be significantly higher than it was last year. Tucker is no longer on leave, and has announced he will be staying at least another year. I have seen no evidence that Jordan less prone to inaccurate statements than Tucker, but I have seen plenty of evidence indicating the opposite. Oh, and the Mayor just announced that he’s lifting the restrictions on OPD overtime spending.

    How is it possible that people can sit and watch violent crime in this city go up and up and up year after year after year and still say we’re moving in the right direction? It just boggles my mind.

  22. oaklandhappenings

    Thanks for correcting me, V. I know that Tucker had spoken, but thought that was just from his own home, and not as back from leave. As for Jordan, I may said that in a somewhat naïve manner, in the sense that it was based on old interviews with him. Nonetheless, I would rather have him as chief than Tucker, only if he can handle the duties with confidence.
    Yes, Dellums announced the overtime “ban”, but I believe that was primarily for the holiday season based on past crime numbers. A week or so after new years, despite crime still being high, hopefully a better plan can be implemented. With the city budget shortfall being what it is, they need to find a way to creatively and effectively cut down on crime without burdening everyone with all of the overtime. With 12-hour shifts in effect, I hope that is starting to do more good than damage, regarding overapping shifts putting more officers on the streets at the same time.

  23. James H. Robinson

    If you define “homicide rate” as Oakland homicides/number of Oakland residents, then the homicide rate is probably going down.

    That being said, SOMETHING has to be done, and I don’t think Dellums is the person to do it.

  24. V Smoothe Post author

    Right now, we’re getting pretty close to having twice as many homicides this year as we did in 1999. I don’t think Oakland’s population has doubled in the last nine years.

  25. Ken O

    The people who run this country don’t give a **** about the rest of us. Nothing new – just that before, we were a country with abundant natural resources which provided enough for everyone. This way, the elite AND the peons could all have a share of the pie.

    There are more people born each year in this country who consume resources and require services. But as a country we have less resources (oil, natural gas, timber, metals) to give out every year. We are importing more gas/oil every year which drive the notional economy, in which Oakland has its part.

    So the pie is shrinking and the Powers That Be know it. They are trying to manage this slide down the resources slope through a slow burn.

    The Army base closing cost Oakland thousands of jobs. Those were never replaced with commercial jobs. THere aren’t enough jobs. Bottom line.

    All this crime business is merely a symptom of the root cause, which is not enough jobs/money to go around for high school academic level people.

    Chief Tucker is just icing on the cake. (THrow him out already!!)

  26. Robert

    It is an interesting theory Ken, but the Army base finally closed in 1998, just before the historical low point in crime in Oakland from roughly 1998 to 2002.

  27. Patrick

    In a matter of minutes, over 100 people have been murdered in Mumbai. When people want to kill, no police force can stop them.

  28. James H. Robinson

    1999 was an unusually low year for homicides. In fact homicides in 1999 were lower than the 16 years before it. I would prefer we look at a 5 year trend, instead of comparing to 1999. If we are going to pick an arbitrary year from the 1990′s, why not pick 1992 when there were 172 homicides?

    Here’s a web site that could help:

    http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2005-01-03/article/20436?headline=A-Longer-Range-View-of-Oakland-s-Homicides-By-J.DOUGLAS-ALLEN-TAYLOR

  29. V Smoothe Post author

    James, 1999 had the lowest number of homicides recorded since 1969 and 1992, with 165 homicides (not 172) was the highest.. Here are the homicide totals over the last two decades.

    1988: 112
    1989: 129
    1990: 146
    1991: 149
    1992: 165
    1993: 154
    1994: 140
    1995: 137
    1996: 93
    1993: 99
    1998: 72
    1999: 60
    2000: 80
    2001: 84
    2002: 108
    2003: 109
    2004: 82
    2005: 93
    2006: 145
    2007: 120
    2008, YTD: 115

  30. James H. Robinson

    Thanks for the stats. Is it more fair to compare the current number of homicides to the lowest number or to recent years’ homicides?

  31. Navigator

    V, we seem to be mixing up “justifiable” and “non justifiable” homicide numbers. On one hand, we’re including at least seven justifiable homicides in the 2008 numbers to come up with 115. On the other hand, we deduct the justifiable homicides, or what ever other methods were used, to come up with the decade numbers. For example, in 1999 there were 66 homicides, not 60. In 1992 there were 175 homicides, not 165. Last year,there were 128 homicides recorded, not 120. The FBI actually had Oakland with 118 homicides last year, which means there must have been 10 justifiable homicides included in the original 128. So please, let’s not mix up the total homicide numbers with the revised numbers, which include taking out the “justifiable homicides.”

    Oakland needs to do what San Francisco does with the acknowledgment and cooperation of the San Francisco media, and simply deduct its justifiable homicides from the ongoing yearly count on its own without the permission of the FBI. By using this San Francisco method of homicide recording Oakland could improve its homicide rankings and image throughout the year and simplify regional comparisons. After all, why go through out the year crucifying yourself with homicides that your neighbor wouldn’t even count and the FBI will just deduct at the end of the year. It’s time that Oakland get on the San Francisco homicide reporting plan. From now on, Oakland does NOT have 115 homicides to date, but 108 instead.

  32. Navigator

    V, this is where I got the 118 homicides and other crime stats for 2007.

    Oakland – California

    In 2007, this city reported 7,351 violent crimes and 22,646 property crimes.

    Violent crime is composed of four offenses: Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program as those offenses which involve force or threat of force.

    Property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. While arson is a property crime, data for arson are not included in property crime totals. Figures for 2007 indicate that arson decreased 7.0 percent in 2007 when compared to 2006 figures.The object of the theft-type offenses is the taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    Violent Crimes
    7,351

    Property Crimes
    22,646
    Population
    396,541

    VIOLENT CRIMES
    Murder
    118

    Forcible Rape
    277
    Robbery
    3,419

    Aggravated Assault
    3,537

  33. V Smoothe

    Navigator, I still have no idea where you’re coming up with those numbers from because you didn’t provide any source for your data, but they are not the what the FBI lists for Oakland in 2007. These are the 2007 numbers from the Uniform Crime Report for Oakland: Violent Crimes: 7,605 Murder: 120 Forcible Rape: 299 Robbery: 3,470 Aggravated Assault: 3,716. The Property Crime total was 23,664.

  34. Navigator

    V these are FBI numbers.

    FBI Uniform Crime Reports 2006-2007

    The following report is generated from crime data submitted to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. This report does not reflect all crime as the UCR program only collects data on eight offense types and then only counts the most serious offense when numerous crimes are reported on the same police report.

    Oakland – California

    In 2007, this city reported 7,351 violent crimes and 22,646 property crimes.

    Violent crime is composed of four offenses: Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program as those offenses which involve force or threat of force.

    Property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. While arson is a property crime, data for arson are not included in property crime totals. Figures for 2007 indicate that arson decreased 7.0 percent in 2007 when compared to 2006 figures.The object of the theft-type offenses is the taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    Violent Crimes
    7,351

    Property Crimes
    22,646
    Population
    396,541

    VIOLENT CRIMES
    Murder
    118

    Forcible Rape
    277
    Robbery
    3,419

    Aggravated Assault
    3,537

    PROPERTY CRIMES

  35. Robert

    Navigator, your numbers, at least for murder for 2007, appear to come from the preliminary UCR, while V’s number comes from the final version of the report. Since you don’t provide the actual link for your data it is difficult to be sure if that is where you got your numbers.

  36. Navigator

    Robert,

    I believe you’re right. This explains the discrepancy between the two sets of FBI crime statistics for 2007. Thanks for clarifying.