Oakland Crime Stats Update, end of summer edition

It just occurred to me it’s been a while since I did this.

As of September 3rd:

Here’s what Jean Quan has to say about the numbers in her most recent newsletter:

For Oakland these crimes reached a high in the early nineties and declined until a trend up in the last two years. In recent months these crime stats have been decreasing or are relatively flat now including murders. In the last two years rising murders mostly reflect young men involved in gang and/or drug crimes or women victims of domestic violence. Encouragingly since the reorganization of the police 6 months ago, most quality of life crimes have declined except for Assaults which we believe reflect more reporting of domestic violence crimes.

FYI, the number of reported domestic violence aggravated assaults increased from 353 last year to 354 this year.

23 thoughts on “Oakland Crime Stats Update, end of summer edition

  1. Sean B

    I wonder if Jean Quan is familiar with the Wire. Numbers can be deceiving, especially when police and politicans are using them :-) . I love how she does not address the large increase in restaurant robberies this year. Granted, they haven’t been in her district, but they no doubt impact all of Oakland.

  2. Robert

    Just couple of points/questions.

    Does anyone really know that the number of restaurant ‘takeover’ robberies is actually up? or is it mostly a reflection of robberies occuring in the ‘nicer’ areas and lots of publicity? Just a question, because the overall robbery stats aren’t up. And I have heard officers comment that these sorts of things (takeoer robberies) happen all the time.

    Second, if you eliminate the assaults, it looks like oeverall crime is level to down this year so far. And just for me, I would actually listen to an argument that an increase in assults – without some other crime such as robbery – may, in fact, be due to the economy. It is certainly true that unemployment is up a lot, and that does lead to increased levels of frustration and therefore violence. Just thinking, I would need to see some real data to be convinced, but are these the same people who are committing the other crime, or or these ordinary folks who are just frustrated by where their life is right now?

  3. dto510

    Robert, you sound like our pathetic police brass and politicians – excuses for the inexcusable. Other cities are seeing crime decrease even as unemployment is up – like, LA, where Bill Bratton mocked the idea of economic causality to crime when announcing his impressive crime-reduction figures. Also, is it “certainly true that unemployment is up a lot” in Oakland? People are really whiny about the economy but I don’t see much job reduction apart from mortgage brokers and government agencies. Are you suggesting that laid-off Port workers and mortgage brokers are turning to aggravated assaults (also called attempted murder) out of “frustration?”

  4. len raphael

    aren’t unemployment rate measured by using unemployment insurance claims? so that people who no longer qualify for unemployment or never did, would not show up in those stats.

    my hunch is that unemployment among 18 to 38 year old african american males in oakland is closer to 30% and has remained about the same since 2000.

    btw, dt, there has a been huge job elimination in the oakland construction sector, everything from thousands of aliens from south of the border, to union scale jobs. are those people turning to robbery? probably not yet. will some of them eventually do so if the construction jobs don’t come back? absolutely yes.

    -len raphael

  5. V Smoothe Post author

    The unemployment rate is not based on unemployment insurance claims. It is a measure of individuals not employed, but who are capable of working and actively looking for work.

  6. V Smoothe Post author

    And just for fun, since I love numbers so much – from the California EDD, here’s the estimates for the total number of construction jobs in the Oakland-Fremont-Hayward MD (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties) for July 2007 and July 2008:

    July 2007: 74,900
    July 2008: 68,400

  7. Robert

    len is certainly correct that the unemployment rate is far higher among young black males, and in an economic downturn such as we are having, it increases faster in that group than in the general population. In past times of high unemployment in Oakland the estimate has been over 50% of the group is unemployed. Unemployment in Oakland has increased by almost 40% since last year (7.4 t0 10.3%). I guess if you have never been through a period of unemployment you wouldn’t know that that folks do get frustrated and lash out. Aggravated assault is not always attempted murder, it is an assault that causes injury. Could a 40% increase in the unemployment rate be responsible for part or all of a 13% increase in assaults? I don’t know, but I would be willing to listen.

    When the first statement out of somebody’s mouth in response to a different opinion is an insult, I tend to think they don’t have any facts.

    V – you raise a valid point that the unemployment was just as high in earlier years without the crime, but I was only commenting on the statistics from this year to last, and suggesting that if there is a reason behind the assault increase, we are not in the middle of a crime wave this year to last. Over the last 4 or 5 years is a totally different situation. I certainly was not trying to justify the assault numbers, but the first step in solving a problem is to understand the root causes.

  8. V Smoothe Post author

    The metric for aggravated assault is not merely injury. dto510′s characterization is much more apt. Here is the criteria used to determine whether an assault qualifies as a Part I crime (emphasis added):

    The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines aggravated assault as an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. The Program further specifies that this type of assault is usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or by other means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Attempted aggravated assault that involves the display of—or threat to use—a gun, knife, or other weapon is included in this crime category because serious personal injury would likely result if the assault were completed. When aggravated assault and larceny-theft occur together, the offense falls under the category of robbery.

    As to the possible linkage of rising aggravated assault and unemployment – I don’t really follow the logic there, personally. Assuming one wanted to posit a causal link between rising crime and unemployment, it seems like the more rational assumption would be to look for a link between property crimes with material benefits and rising joblessness rates.

    In any case, if you want to write off the 13% rise in aggravated assaults over last year’s numbers as a result of rising unemployment, you’ll need to then come up with other factors to explain the rise in previous years.

    From 2005 to 2006, aggravated assaults in Oakland rose 42%, while the average annual unemployment rate dropped from 7.9% to 6.9%. From 2006 to 2007, aggravated assaults in Oakland rose another 11%, while the unemployment rate rose from 6.9% to 7.4%.

  9. VivekB

    You don’t happen to have a listing by penal code for each of those buckets, do you?

    I’d love to see how my #s true up to yours, but that would require alignment at the detail level.

  10. V Smoothe Post author

    Vivek –

    I don’t know how well our numbers would match up – broad trends would probably be similar, but we’re counting different things. You’re working on a much more micro level. If I understand your crime tables, you do it by penal code (taken from the weekly crimes reported by beat, right?), and in the case of say, violent crime, you’re counting everything considered “crimes against a person.” (Let me know if I’ve got that wrong.)

    My numbers come from the OPD’s Daily Crime Reports and reflect only offenses considered Part I offenses (the most serious crimes) for the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program.

  11. oaklandhappenings

    I know that this may be unlikely, but here’s something worth knowing: if Oakland can get through the month with no worse than 10 more homicides (hopefully less), we will finish the month under last year’s tally from Jan 1 to Sept 30th. Then, of course, we will have to hope for no more than 7 for Oct and Nov combined to stay under last year’s total. The bottom line is this: we can still finish under last year’s total for unjustifiable plus justifiable; for the former, the count is something like 88, compared to about the same number last year. My realistic prediction for year’s end: 114 unjustifiable, 10 justfiable, for a total of 124– under last year’s 127 (or 128?). I hope that doesn’t sound pessimistic, and I know homicides are just the worst results of aggravated assaults. Still, CQ press takes them into account for their rankings. Therefore, the fewer, of course, the better.

  12. V Smoothe Post author

    The fewer homicides the better, true. But I don’t think the reason for that sentiment should have anything to do with crime rankings.

  13. Robert

    I did not realize that aggravated assault includes the threat of force along with actual injury. Makes the category far broader than I thought.

  14. Max Allstadt

    If crime is caused by economic circumstances, there are only two ways to fight crime: Eliminate poverty or gentrify.

    Which option do you think is likely to win out when those the only two available?

    Our options aren’t that simplistic. Our analysis shouldn’t be either. There’s more to crime than poverty. I know plenty of perfectly decent poor people who aren’t out robbing and killing.

    Most criminals are poor, true. But they’re also assholes. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few rich criminals, and they to are assholes. Why focus our attention on poverty when the real problem is assholes?

  15. VivekB

    Yes, I took what Captain Toribio eyeballed for penal codes as a baseline, and added in any penal code that I viewed as disturbing for “crimes against a person”. It’s not every single penal code against a person, but more than likely bigger than just the Part I list. To Robert’s point, I also include “attempted ” in my listing as well as attempted injury as both Captain Toribio & I felt that deserved inclusion.

    I’ll hunt down my penal code listing, and put it up online somewhere so folks can check it out. I’ll also see if I can get the Part I listing. Shouldn’t be too far off, as all I do is load in the full dataset from the OPD weekly (not daily) reports into an access database. One would hope that they’re generally equivalent.

  16. dto510

    Robert – I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to call you or your argument pathetic. What’s pathetic is the leaders charged with ensuring public safety using your argument as an excuse for not improving their performance.

  17. len raphael

    v, re unemployment rates, i didn’t find the EDD’s “actively looking for work” operational definition, but unless they’re doing survey’s at street corners and in front of home depots, as cf to unemployment insurance centers, there’s no way they’re counting unemployed illegals and young afm’s who never held a job that reported payroll taxes to EDD. Or who gave up looking soon after dropping out of hs. Some goes for that construction job info from EDD. During this last real estate boom, latinos, (and to some extend asians) especially illegal latinos from as far south as guatemala almost completely displaced white and black construction workers. gotta be extremely high percentage of those workers for sub contractors not paying tax or reporting to EDD.

    agree, if there has been a recent increase in that type of unemployment, we wouldn’t see the effect quite yet, and would expect the increase to affect property type crimes.


  18. Robert

    dto – Thanks, and I totally agree with your last comment. And even if one root cause of crime (or assaults in this case) was poverty, I don’t think it is feasible to eliminate poverty as the only approach to reducing crime. But actual understanding causes (not Dellums’ its the economy attidute) does give us tools to use in the search for solutions.

  19. californio

    On the relationship between poverty and criminality:

    It’s easy to simplify this in either direction, but what you actually end up doing is stating your opinion on the matter when you do so.

    In fact, poverty is ONE factor contributing to a certain type of crime. Not the only factor, and not to all types of crime.

    And it’s not just poverty measured by income level, either. It’s a little snide to suggest that because loan brokers hurting from the recession don’t hold up restaurants, that poverty isn’t a cause of this type of crime.

    Rather, it’s a whole “culture of poverty” that causes, in part, the type of low-level, sometimes-violent crimes we’re talking about. By “culture of poverty,” I don’t mean low household income. There are plenty of marginal artists and intellectuals around here that don’t have a lot off income and, duh, they don’t break car windows and steal CD players. What I mean is a whole milieu characterized by low educational level, young parents, many children, government subsidies for rent and food, and a family history of the same that goes back so far no one can remember differently. This is the culture of poverty, and it IS a factor in criminality. (As are the lyrics of certain types of music, testosterone, the availability of guns, child abuse, poor education, available targets, drugs, peer pressure, and a whole bunch of other things.)

    Almost every significant event has a number of causes, not just one. Cancer is caused by bad genes and smoking and lousy diet and lack of exercise, and who knows what else, in combination, not alone. To state the obvious.

    Poverty alone, in the sense of low household income, is less a factor in criminality than the culture of poverty I’m describing. And even this is only one factor in the commission of crimes. But it does stand to reason that, when you increase the poverty level by decreasing spendable income, you exacerbate the tension within the “culture of poverty,” and so income really is one factor in criminality. That’s why crime rates often inversely mimic economic indicators.

    I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’m not excusing anyone or justifying criminality. The person primarily responsible for the shooting will always be the one who pulls the trigger, and it doesn’t really matter what the causes are to get him to that point once he’s there. You just have to stop him.

  20. 94610BizMan

    Try substituting “culture of dysfuntional family/personal values” for “culture of poverty” in your post. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said very similar things 30 or so years ago.