It’s amazing to me how obstinate so many of Oakland’s residents are in their complete refusal to acknowledge Oakland’s serious violent crime problem. Almost daily, I read or listen to various people assert that crime in Oakland is not actually that bad, that all big cities have crime, that the reason people think Oakland has a crime problem is because of media bias, that this incident or that could have happened anywhere.
Sure, there’s crime everywhere and any particular incident, I suppose, could have happened anywhere else. But the fact is, all these incidents happened here, not in San Francisco or Walnut Creek or Boston or Huntington Beach or anywhere else.
To illustrate my point, I’ve put together a little chart illustrating violent crime rates in US cities. The image below shows the number of violent crimes reported per 10,000 residents in every city with a population over 300,00 for the first half of 2008. The numbers come from the FBI’s 2008 Preliminary Crime Report. There are some cities (Seattle, for example) with more than 300,000 residents that were not included in the report, and are therefore not included in the tables. The population figures I used are all the 2007 Census Bureau population estimates for each city, except in cases when the police department covers an area beyond city boundaries (Las Vegas Metro, Chacklotte-Mecklenburg, for example), in which case I used their own estimates of population served. I am also working on a larger table of city crime data, including full year 2007 and property crime figures and law enforcement staffing information, which I’ll post when I finish it. You can download my full 2008 Jan-Jun violent crime table in Excel format or PDF format.
So with those qualifications, please take a second to soak in the figures below.
Oakland, as you can see, reported the second-highest number of violent crimes per 10,000 residents of all large cities in the country, and a dramatically higher rate than all but three other cities. That’s just totally unacceptable, and saying that it’s okay or that people shouldn’t be up in arms about it does not mean that you love Oakland. It isn’t loving Oakland or doing any kind service to Oakland at all to bury your head in the sand and pretend we don’t have a problem. Loving Oakland means working to make it better, not trying to lower expectations.
I’m not going to speculate for now on the reasons behind our astronomically high violent crime rate or possible solutions. Those are issues for future discussion, certainly. But I don’t see how we can expect to ever make progress on reducing violent crime if we don’t take the initial step of collectively acknowledging that we have a serious violent crime problem. The figures above should speak for themselves.