How underpoliced is Oakland?

So I had a grand old time this weekend spending a rainy Saturday afternoon compiling a massive list of crime statistics and law enforcement staff for every city with over 300,000 residents in the US. Fun! Here’s the list. I find this stuff interesting, and even though I realize that it’s entirely possible I’m the only person in the world who feels that way, I’d like to share some of it. (Scroll down to the bottom for notes on the data).

Here’s a list of all the cities ranked by sworn officers per 10,000 residents. Looking at these numbers, I think that it’s fairly clear that we are underpoliced right now for a city of our size. Of 62 cities on the list, we rank 48th in terms of sworn officers per 10,000 residents. (If you look at total law enforcement employees per 10,000 residents, we aren’t much better – we come in at number 45.) With a fully staffed police force of 803 officers, we would be in the top half of the list, ranking 36th out of 62 cities.

The LA Times reported this weekend that Oakland has more violent crime per capita than any large city in California. And looking at the numbers, wow. (Chicago and Minneapolis are omitted from this list, since the FBI’s data did not give a total number of violent offenses). We have more violent crime per capita than almost every large city in the US! Only St. Louis, Detroit, and Memphis beat us on that one. Depressing.

It gets a little sunnier if you rank by property crime. (Tuscon didn’t make it on this one.) We’re only #20 on that list!

The most striking thing about the numbers for me was that our police force, at full staffing, has a similar officer to resident ratio as the country’s least violent cities, but far below what appears to be standard for the most violent cities.

This chart shows the number of sworn officers per 10,000 residents in America’s most violent cities. The cities are listed in order of the number of violent crimes per 10,000 residents in 2006, and that number is listed along with the city name.

This chart shows the number of sworn officers per 10,000 residents in America’s least violent cities (plus Oakland). The cities are listed in order of the number of violent crimes per 10,000 residents in 2006, and that number is listed along with the city name.

I’m not trying to draw any grand conclusions from these charts. For now, I just want to share the information. I may post some more over the next week or two.


All the information is taken directly from the FBI’s 2006 Uniform Crime Report. The FBI has a kind of funny way of calculating population, but I used their numbers for consistency, particularly since there are some places where the police service area is larger than the city itself. I may go back at some point and update the New Orleans population, since their numbers there are clearly way off, and it’s messing up my charts. (Actually, Wikipedia says that New Orleans is now estimated at 274,000 residents, in which case I should take it off the list. I’ll do that once I verify.)

Crime numbers are here, law enforcement employee numbers are here. The numbers ae all as of October 31, 2006. Here is the FBI’s data declaration.

Oakland, CA on my list is Oakland today. I retained the listed number of civilian law enforcement employees from the FBI report (at some point I may go through and try to update that to be more current), but in order to be as fair as possible to OPD, I changed the number to today’s total of 722 sworn officers.

Oakland, CA (2) represents where we’ll be at our goal of 803 officers.

For some reason, the FBI report doesn’t have any numbers for law enforcement employees in Portland. I have no idea why. So the number of officers for Portland is taken from the Portland Police Department 2006 Annual Report (PDF!) .

I’m sure there are some points I’m forgetting here. I’ll update as things occur to me, or if someone has a question about some of the data.

2 thoughts on “How underpoliced is Oakland?

  1. Tagami

    Thanks for doing your due diligence in writing about this issue.

    I would only add that a geographical review of non-violent crime concentrations show that the downtown area of Oakland has more non-violent crime than anywhere else in the city.

    I sampled part one offenses in half mile and one mile radius from four points for 60 and 90 day periods in north Oakland, west Oakland, CBD, central/Fruitvale, and east Oakland.
    Source was DOJ.

    When viewed in the context of concentration I am affraid our downtown is in a catagory b