The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you have a problem

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.

75 thoughts on “The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you have a problem

  1. Ken O

    So Charles Pine has been right all along, you might surmise, looking at the above graph.

    Yes, we have a problem on our hands and need smart leaders to fix the problem by chopping at their root causes.

  2. Ken O

    Damn editing tool! Very short editing time period. Lost all my thoughts.

    So as I was saying–

    Reasons why we have this high crime problem.

    1. OPD is understaffed. Not enough investigators, logistics support
    2. Low morale at OPD due to former Chief Wayne Tucker’s urban policing “initiatives”, and #1, 3, 4
    3. Soft, squishy electorate and politicians at city hall, mayor’s office – no strong mandates and rolling over to allow for low expectations of success, excuses okay
    4. Alameda County court system doesn’t back up OPD by prosecuting rule-breakers quickly and efficiently, or at all. (no charges are ever pressed for shoplifting, and car thieves are frequently not prosecuted)
    5. Not enough decent jobs (shipyards gone, military base closed, industry offshored)
    6. Crack epidemic and drug dealing (thank you CIA and Felix Mitchell) in the 80s
    7. Broken families and communities unable to support youth and “take care of our own”
    8. Smart, capable people seem to leave “ghettos” for better life elsewhere, leading to a cesspool situation
    9. School is “not cool” in the “hood” – if it were, more of the people in #8 might stay and build it up.

    Individually these may sound like excuses, but collectively they paint the whole picture of what we’re up against. Decades of malinvestment and malnourishment.

  3. Ken O

    V – my first comment was intended toward anyone who was not already aware of the numbers you and Pine have both posted, and who have enjoyed (and promoted) the fantasy that Oakland’s crime situation is somehow “normal.”

  4. Joanna/ShopGirl

    I have to admit that I had not heard about a serial rapist on the loose in East Oakland. Why not? Wouldn’t you want media attention to make people aware? Were the folks in East Oakland aware of it?

    I know that when there were two rapes in our neighborhood under the freeway, and another near West Oakland BART a few years back, that it was big news. We had the police come and speak at a community meeting to raise awareness and remind women to be more careful and aware of their surroundings.

    My perception (which obviously isn’t necessarily reality) is that crime has been down in general. Maybe it’s just because murders are down from last year? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve gone a whole year without having been a victim of any sort of crime?

    I have to say, I was shocked to see that Memphis ranked so high on this list… even over Detroit. Shocking.

  5. Ken O

    Here’s what I see as part of Oakland’s crime solution — adding more public spaces and public open spaces to East Oakland.

    Is there a library there where kids can study? No. The city delayed it from 2004 to 2008 and only started building the 81st street library late last year.

    Here are 2005 survey results from Youth UPrising… answers from the neighborhood kids themselves and what they’d like to do but which they aren’t able to do at YU (and for some of it, presumably these programs are not offered at schools or at home).

    Almost 53% of participants indicated that they have no interest in having additional programs
    of activities at YU while 47% of participants indicated that they would like YU to offer
    additional programs and activities. The five most requested programs and activities are
    basketball 14%, swimming, games (arcade and board), parties and gym 4.3% each, and artistic graffiti 3.2%. Other desired programs and activities include:

    -Piano lessons
    -The Mentoring Center
    -Anger management
    -Leadership Excellence
    -Driving lessons
    -Young women’s group led by Kesha, Jazzy or Olis
    -Modeling class
    -Life skills training
    -Fashion class
    -Job readiness training
    -Pool tables
    -Job placement
    -Acting class
    -YU Dance Team (not The Architeckz)
    -Allow downloading of songs off internet
    -Free food/potlucks
    -Class free studio time

  6. ConcernedOakFF

    Oakland Tech was robbed in a take over robbery at gunpoint today….a freaking HIGH SCHOOL…

    Nah, no crime problem…

  7. Art

    Add to the issues list that California’s prison, parole, and juvenile justice systems are all horrifically (and possibly irreparably, at least with status quo funding and policies) broken—in some cases they do more to foster than to rehabilitate criminals. Don’t underestimate the impact of these failures in places like Deep East Oakland. Concentrations of parolees + poverty + lack of jobs is not a recipe for anything good; you need to change at least one and ideally more than one of those factors to move forward.

  8. Blahzay

    Thank you V for keeping all this up front. These issues are so overwhelming to the average Oaklander…hard to know where to start.

  9. Patrick McCullough

    V, Thanks for compiling the crime statistics and challenging folks to examine the basis for their beliefs about it’s prevalence. It seems a crime to say crime isn’t that bad or is not as bad as it once was, when it’s obvious to the victims – at least – that the problem is worse than it should be.

    20 odd years ago I was working for the phone company installing wire at a water (sewage) treatment plant. It was in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, and as I parked my truck I couldn’t help but notice the awful smell emanating from the building I was about to enter. I almost threw-up and barely made it thru the door. I asked an employee there, “how do you handle this smell?” He looked at me quite seriously and said “what smell?” By my third day there, I, too, was desensitized and able to eat my lunch outside in my truck. After a long weekend away, I returned to finish the installation and, just like the first day, was struck by the revolting smell.

    The relevance to Oakland is: it stunk. I got used to it, much like the employee who worked there for years, but it stunk. It stunk whether I was there or not, whether or not the desensitized people sensed that it stunk; it stunk. Step away for a while to a normal place and your senses and sensibilities will revert to their pre-contaminated state. Return to the cesspool and realize that the awful stink isn’t merely a perception, it’s a fact.

    Oakland has a huge crime problem for such a small town. I’m from Chicago – a big city with a big crime problem. But Chicago has always been a tough city; often brutally tough cops and brutally ruthless gangsters controlled it for much of the last century, and there have been large, brutal gangs within all the large ethnic groups. For a relatively young, smallish town with little of that brutal history, Oakland seems to have more than it’s share of criminals and those others who don’t think crime is all that bad or all that wrong.

    On to solutions.

  10. len raphael

    Oakland Tech takeover. I’ve never liked the idea, but time to make tech a closed campus with metal detectors. (Once again, me and my dog Curly miss armed aholes at our favorite donut shop at 8 in the morning by a hair). Doesn’t even upset me anymore. wierd.

    Have to stay on top of this in the courts to let the prosecutor and judge know we want these two fine mass transit users put away for years.

    We have to follow this one and push to have these two fine mass transit users put away for years.

  11. Mike Spencer

    My .02: more action on the “front end.” Haven’t there been studies showing how money or energy best used on kids before they get to juvey delinquent stage, say age 12 or 13? I say beef-up the truancy police, money well-spent. I don’t have kids so I can spend some time working with youth. Oakland needs to nurture the spirit of neighbors looking out for each other and the kids. Get more men involved working with boys to show them how to be functioning men. I bet Lovelle Mixon did not have a single positive male role model in the home.

  12. oaklandhappenings

    I agree with people (except for Jerry Brown who–as A.G.–should have focused on helping fix the Ca. prison/parole system as early as two years ago), that the p/p system is a major reason for Oakland’s high crime. Then, I suppose that the City council, Dellums and Oakland mayors of past years should be held accountable for not communicating properly to the state gov’t about this. Is that accurate to say? Please correct me if not. As posted before, I say kudos, and send wishes of encouragement to those on probation/parole who never give up when it comes to making the most of their extra chances in life. However, that will likely not be the attitude for more than half of them. Mr. Mixon seems to have been an example of that.
    As for the chart, I believe its accuracy, and won’t act in denial. However, I am not one to dwell on Oakland’s crime stats of a year ago, when there were still several less police on patrol; other helpful ways of fighting crime that were not yet implemented at that time, when crime is still down(?) compared to this time last year. I also feel that a large percentage of the crimes is still in neighborhoods who fail to unite in a way to put a stop to it. While no neighborhood in Oakland is immune from crime, it still doesn’t seem to be a concern for those who decide to live here for years to come and/or raise their kids in Oakland.
    Finally, if tonight’s vigil doesn’t solve that neighborhood’s problems, it is hard to guess what will.

  13. V Smoothe Post author

    oaklandhappenings, that is exactly the kind of attitude I’m talking about. Your mindless boosterism and blame-shifting doesn’t help Oakland in the slightest – suggesting that the status quo is acceptable or that the fault belongs to someone else does a horrible disservice to the city. If the problem is California’s prison system, how come no other cities in California come anywhere remotely close to our crime levels? Was California’s prison system different in 2000, when 5,038 violent crimes were reported for the full year, compared to 3,962 reported just for the first six months of 2008? As for crime being down compared to last year – yes, violent crime is down year to date roughly 13%. A 13% reduction compared to the 2008 figures still leaves Oakland with a violent crime rate significantly higher than any city in the country besides St. Louis, Memphis, and Detroit.

  14. We Fight Blight

    V. Thanks for the data.

    We hear it all the time from people in Oakland neighborhoods who are either in denial, don’t want to know about the crime because it’s too depressing or frankly are apologists and enablers for those committing crimes. At some point, don’t we all have to realize that each person born into this world has free will and has the ability to choose their path in life. Some choose productive and socially acceptable paths others choose lives of crime and violence. Yes, some people live in more nurturing environments and others live in environments with crime and violence. But ultimately, the choice between right and wrong, legal and illegal, is made largely by individuals who are cognizant of their choices, yet undertake them anyway. There are plent of people who live under incredibly difficult circumstances, yet continue to behave in socially acceptable ways. In looking at your chart, I have to wonder what distinguishes the five most violent Cities from the five least violent. What is initially striking about the chart you provided is that if you look at the demographics of the top five Cities—Saint Louis, Oakland, Memphis, Detroit and Baltimore–and compare them to the bottom five Cities–San Diego, Santa Ana, San Jose, Anaheim and Virginia Beach–you can see a distinct demographic pattern. Those Cities at the top of the list with the highest violent crime rates have significant Black populations, while those at the bottom of the list with the lowest incidents of violent crimes have signficant populations of Whites or Whites and Asians. Some might argue this is the case because there is a connection between race and poverty and poverty and crime, In the top five Cities there appears to be significant concentrations of poverty. However, that doesn’t seem to be the whole story. Are there other more salient reasons/rationales that propel certain Cities to higher violent crime rates? Some of the factors related to the high concentrations of poverty could be related to the poor quality of education, lack of job opportunities, adequacy of police force and poor police community relations, deteriorated family and social networks, high addiction rates, an overburdened prison and parole system and the legacy of slavery. Yet, for some all of these rationales could be highlighted as excuses. As others have claimed, Lovelle Mixon was a “good person” who was wronged by the circumstances of his environment. and “forced” into his rage. We all have choice. We all have free will. At what point do we ask every individual–regardless of race, income status or any other social division– to take individual responsibility for their lives , their actions and their community? The problem starts with the individual.

  15. Californio

    A large concentration of what Swift would have called “surplus population” characterizes our fair city. These are people for whom there are no jobs, no matter what you do, because one of the tenets of our economy is that unemployment is essential to prevent inflation, and so there must always be a small army of people without hope of finding work. This does not mean that on an individual level, one person cannot get training and find work; it means that collectively, there will always be people like Mr. Mixon who have no purpose in society–even if they do not commit crimes. If it is not Mixon who does the shooting, it’s his neighbor down the block. Remember the guy who shot Chris Rodriguez? Could have been Mixon. In Swift’s day, the concern was about famine. Now the well-fed surplus population has been given military-grade weaponry. No jobs, no purpose in life, and an automatic rifle hidden in the kid sister’s bedroom. 3000 parolees in Oakland, most in the flatlands, with nothing to do but impress the locals with glitz and bravado. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know the problem.

  16. MarleenLee

    The crime in Oakland is still at crisis levels, regardless of whatever reductions have been accomplished in the short-term. Even the perception of Oakland as a dangerous and crime infested City has disastrous consequences in terms of depressing home values and deterring business. Crime needs to be the number one focus of our City’s leaders, but look at the drivel they usually focus on. Listen to the liberal clap trap they spew, like: “”Right now, it’s pretty clear we are in a time of increased crime….But the bottom line is we believe we cannot arrest our way out of these problems.” (Deputy Chief David Kozicki). Or Council President Jane Brunner, who up until recently, claimed the police department wasn’t understaffed!!! While there are obviously numerous factors that contribute to the problem, one thing that is abundantly clear and cannot be disputed is the consistent understaffing of our police department. The City pays thousands and thousands of dollars on studies, like the Hartnett Report, which clearly demanded a dramatic increase in police numbers. The Grand Jury report issued last year also clearly found Oakland’s force dramatically understaffed. Oakland’s answer to this is to ask taxpayers to open up their wallets and spend nearly $400 a year extra (in parcel taxes) for what most cities are expected to provide for as a basic city service. Oakland needs to adjust its priorities and give us 300 more officers.

  17. David

    Ken O., more money thrown at parks etc isn’t going to reduce crime.

    There’s one proven way to reduce crime–more police. Period.

    There’s one proven way to prevent crime–children, especially boys being raised by TWO MARRIED PARENTS, one of which is a MAN. Period.

    It might not be PC or whatever, but those are the best correlations to crime rate in any sociological study in the USA. It’s not poverty, it’s not parkland, it’s not jobs, it’s not anger management. If you have a community with sufficient policing and stable families, you have lower crime, whether it’s rich or poor.

    I know OPD needs more police…that’s a relatively easy problem for Oakland to solve. how to get people to get married BEFORE having children….well, that’s hard.

  18. californio


    If more police means deterrence, then yes. If it means more incarceration, then no. The state can’t afford more prisoners–we’re at 179,000 already, and each costs about $47,000 per year, to say nothing of monitoring an additional 120,000 parolees. The state can’t afford it. And shouldn’t have to.

    I saw two 12 year old kids that go to my daughter’s public school kissing under the BART station a few days ago. Openly, while all the people walked by. Four years or so from now they may be parents.

    The Alameda County Sheriff monitors this middle school daily by sending two patrol cars at three in the afternoon.

    Yes, there is a correlation.

  19. Max Allstadt

    You know what else would reduce violent crime?

    Legalize concealed carry of firearms for responsible citizens over 30. In Texas, if you have bad credit, if you have outstanding parking tickets, if you have too many points on your license, if you have any kind of record… no permit for you. Psychiatric issues? No permit. Guess how many violent crimes are committed by concealed carry permit holders? Somewhere in the region of none.

    A few armed robbers got shot last year trying to rob liquor stores, because in Oakland, you can have a gun at your own business. What happened after that? Liquor store robberies tapered off. Fast.

    Why not make the thugs out there who are carrying illegally be a little more afraid? Why should law abiding citizens walk around defenseless?

    Legalize concealed carry. Do it with mandatory training, testing, and vetting. If we do this, criminals will have to guess very carefully who they can and cannot mess with, and that uncertainty will drive down violent crime.

    We live in a country with more guns than citizens, and I wish it wasn’t that way. Gun control advocates want it another way. But it isn’t. Allowing responsible citizens to arm themselves is a sane harm-reduction method to deal with a systemic problem that will take decades to correct. We need to consider it honestly. Undo the bans. They don’t work. Instead, regulate, test, and track guns and owners.

  20. Mike Caton

    It was Vsmoothe and another commenter who schooled me in the comments section of my own blog, after I made the claim that Oakland wasn’t much worse than my native Philly. I used old statistics. I’m glad that OP gave us a comparison to similar-sized and nearby cities. So here’s the question: was Oakland ALWAYS worse? When did it start pulling away, and why?

    Many of that neighborhood’s residents are frustrated that it took police being killed before the rest of the city is aware how bad things are in that neighborhood. Silver lining: get more officers up there. Hire more officers for the force. Don’t put up with the mayor or city council telling us we don’t need them.

    My $0.02 on what needs to be fixed.

    - Education: the Oakland school system is a joke and does no favors to the kids it pushes through.

    - Unrealistic electorate: I frequently worry that by telling people “we need more cops, and we need more stringent enforcement” that I’ll get labeled a fascist. This is the same reason SF has had such an endemic homeless problem, and finally about 2 years ago people had enough. The time is past to assume that Oakland is entirely composed of enlightened human beings that act out of rational self-interest.

    - Prison priorities: for the foreseeable future our prisons will continue to be horribly overcrowded, so we’ll have to have parolees. Are there stats on WHO is getting paroled, and are the people selected for parole the less recidivist criminal classes? Something tells me there’s no feedback mechanism there.

    - Culture: I have no idea how to fix the “no snitching” anti-achievement narrow-focused culture that’s taken root. One thing that amazed me: when Mixon ran, he ran a block away. If I had done this and had a few minutes head start, I would at least try to get out of the city, but his instinct was to hunker down in one of the four square blocks that he knew.

  21. eo

    As a newer resident of Oakland (almost 2 years), I’m still learning much about its past and what’s going on now. I moved over after 5 years in SF, knowing little about the East Bay. I now live in West Oakland and everyone had told me how awful and scary it is, but I’ve found that it isn’t really all that bad. We’re working as a neighborhood to improve our air quality and there are many of us who want to move the recycling plants… there are car break ins, etc but I don’t feel unsafe to walk with my toddler along Mandela Parkway up where I live.

    The police killings have really opened my eyes to the completely other reality of East Oakland. My Oakland is Rockridge, Lake Merrit and Piedmont. There seems to be a large chasm and I was shocked by what was said in interviews with East Oaklanders on the local news-that the police deserved it, “eye for an eye,” etc. It seems as though Oakland is the little city that can’t. Every time it begins to get its feet off the ground, the economy crashes and its left in worse shape.

    Have there been any sort of programs within East Oakland to recruit/train police from the neighborhood so that there is less tension between the residents and the police? It seems as though there’s a lot of unemployment and the police department still needs to do a lot of hiring…

  22. Art

    When you hear “….but Oakland’s not all that bad,” you’re often hearing it from people living in Montclair or Rockridge or the hills. They’re right—not all of Oakland is that bad. But as a city, we’re something like the little girl with the strawberry curl in the nursery rhyme—where it’s good it’s very, very good, but where it’s bad it’s horrid. This is one of the most polarized cities I’ve ever lived in as far as income, crime, and other basic quality of life issues go.

    The same thing is true of the schools. OUSD’s performance numbers are abysmal. But the really surprising thing? There are a lot—not just one or two, but a *lot*—of strong schools in the city. That the overall numbers are so low means those high-performing schools are being canceled out by schools whose performance is lower than low—an extreme system of haves and have nots. This is more unusual than many people realize; a lot of the peer districts with stats like Oakland’s have consistently poor schools across the board.

    We *do* need more cops—one effect of having more officers is that they have more time to be out in the neighborhoods. In recent months, we’ve begun seeing our PSO regularly, something he didn’t have time for as OPD was staffing up because he was stretched thin. The fact that the tipster who turned Mixon in waited until she saw an officer she knew to approach police was especially telling. We need enough cops that they can have a presence in the neighborhoods they work in and can rebuild trust there. (We also need more cops who are from Oakland, but that’s a challenge for another day….)

    But more cops won’t do much unless there’s also a plan to address the deep economic divides in this city. What does that look like? I’m not even sure where to begin. But I know we need strategies and interventions that kick in long before we’re dealing with the inadequacies of the prison and parole system. How do we foster an entirely new culture in DEO to break the cycle of poverty and violence? Sure, there are lots of groups working to do this, but we need to be talking about it in the very same breath as crime and cops, because it’s all intricately connected.

    Anyway, just my two cents….

  23. len raphael

    Art has it right why residents accept the crime levels here: residents of the nice parts of oakland have 0 contact with east oakland unless driving thru to buy something. the nice parts of oakland might not be as as safe as Piedmont, but you can tell by the fairly low percentage with visible burglar alarms that residents don’t feel very unsafe in their homes.

    asked the question this morning of a 40 year long oakland hills resident, active civic supporter, member of Lake Merrit breakfast club etc. He said straight out that people in the good areas don’t consider the bad areas to be part of their city.

    west oakland has shifted dramatically over the last 20 years from being a very dangerous place to being not too bad. (is my impression correct that it’s population has dropped 40% or so over that time period?)

    now you’d think that mindset would change when parents in rockridge who took what they thought was risk to send their kids to Tech heard about the armed takeover of a civics class the other day. or the now forgotten takeovers of restaurants. but people can’t move easily and rationalize their life choices.

  24. californio

    V, Going back to your crime stats. It is just me, or are there some US cities missing from the list? I don’t see Washington D.C., Albuquerque, Chicago, or Seattle on there. Surely D.C. has a higher crime rate than Anaheim? Am I reading this wrong?

  25. Colin

    While I certainly agree that crime is a problem in Oakland and not taken seriously enough, this is a shoddy way to make your point, V.

    Here are the populations for the top 5 cities on that list:
    St. Louis: 355,663
    Oakland: 397,067
    Memphis: 677,272
    Detroit: 916,952
    Baltimore: 637,455

    So these ratios of crime/10k are a little bit misrepresentative. 100 violent crimes in Detroit are a smaller ratio than 100 violent crimes in Oakland.

    (your link to the FBI report doesn’t work, by the way – I’m not sure if they’re counting the population of the city of St. Louis or the larger metro area)

    None of that takes anything away from your central point (which I agree with), but it’s dishonest. If you want to go after people for ignoring the facts, don’t site misleading facts.

  26. V Smoothe Post author

    Colin, I wasn’t trying to be dishonest or misleading at all. Honestly, I don’t understand your comment at all. This is the standard method for comparing crime rates. What do you thing a fair metric would be?

    The link works for me.

  27. Dave C.

    The NY Times, citing Mixon’s uncle as its source, reports that he was earning a living as a pimp in recent months, in addition to the raping and murdering that we already knew about.

    So at the same exact moment that our politicians were wringing their hands about how terrible it would be for Oakland’s reputation if a show about a pimp were produced here, an actual pimp seems to have been serially raping women and girls on the streets of East Oakland, and would soon go on to kill four police officers. If ever we needed an illustration of the disconnect between Oakland’s actual problems and the problems that exist in our elected officials heads, here it is. How are our “image” and “reputation” doing now?

  28. Colin

    If you’re just establishing a ratio of population to crimes committed, then it’s going to be lower in any large city. Detroit has more violent crimes committed, but because population isn’t factored in it implies that more crime happens in Oakland than Detroit. Considering that Detroit is 3 times our size it’s not really realistic to compare crime rates based on a simple ratio.

    1 crime committed in a town of 10 people is a higher ratio than 9,000 crimes committed in a town of 100,000, but that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

  29. V Smoothe Post author

    The number of violent crimes reported per resident seems like a pretty simple and obvious metric to me. And again, I’ll note that this is the standard metric for comparing crime rates. I still don’t understand what you’re suggesting. What would be an “apples-to-apples comparison” if not crimes per resident?

  30. Dave C.

    Small correction to my comment at 2:25: It was Mixon’s cousin, not his uncle, who told the NYT that he had been making money as a pimp.

  31. fakchek

    As long as we’re comparing crime rates in different cities, can we also take a look at the size of police forces? How does OPD’s authorized strength measure up to other cities?

  32. Colin

    If I were to argue that Oakland doesn’t have a crime problem because we only had 124 murders last year and that’s nothing compared to the 522 that happened in NYC, you would see that there is a missing piece of data there. You’re comparing a fairly small city (Oakland) to larger cities (StL excepted) and getting a similarly skewed ratio, but in the other direction.

    The fact that NYC’s crime rate as a simple ratio is the same as Boise’s doesn’t present an honest picture of crime in both cities. Because of the sample size, 2 extra murders in Boise would have made its murder rate higher than NYC.

    In the same sense, crime isn’t worse here than in Detroit, which is over twice our size.

    How the size of a population sample (and whatever other demographics you want to include) should be factored into ratios like this when comparing divergent samples is something statisticians debate endlessly, and I don’t suggest there’s a simple answer, or that I even understand all of the logic behind that kind of modeling. So no, I don’t have a better model for comparing crime rates in these cities. But at the very least I’d suggest comparing cities with more similar populations, not the ratio of crimes to that population.

  33. V Smoothe Post author

    Well, the list includes every US city for which data is available with a population of over 300k, so some cities are larger and some are smaller. I could go ahead and compare Oakland with even smaller cities, and we still come out way on top.

    I still can’t see on what basis you’re saying that crime in Detroit is worse than it is in Oakland. You keep making that claim, but haven’t offered any evidence to support it. Is it just your “sense” of how things are? That seems like a pretty shoddy way to make a point.

    You’re welcome to keep trying, but so far, I find your argument here extremely unpersuasive, especially since you can’t seem to offer any alternative. I’m calculating crime rates the exact same way everybody else does, and since in a couple literature searches I wasn’t able to find anyone disputing the fairness of that method, I feel pretty comfortable using it to make my point.

  34. Colin

    One other thing: why are you only using crime rates for cities with populations over 300k? If the ratio is accurate regardless of the size of cities being compared, wouldn’t that be true for all cities of all sizes?

    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you used a bottom number on your ratio to try to factor out the disproportional effect of smaller cities on that ratio.

    Anyway, this is a tangent.

  35. Ralph

    colin, i am not following your argument. crime / 10K is the standard way of reporting the rate.

    there is no doubt that 100VC/917K is a smaller ratio than 100VC/~400K people; however the statistic is VC/10K, which allows you to compare crime over different size cities.

    i don’t understand the bottom number comment. according to my simple math, I am guessing that over the period in question Oakland had something shy of 4000 violent crimes and detroit had 8400+/-

  36. Jennifer

    Colin -
    For those of us who have been victims of crime, believe us it’s bad in Oakland. For those of us who have taken doctoral level statistics courses, V’s analysis is informative. And to the list of those who do not understand why or what you are arguing — add me to it.

  37. Navigator

    Oakland has more crime than Detroit? Therefore, Oakland must be the most crime ridden city in the United States? Is this right? Why do we look at these meaningless statistics which are always weighed in favor of large cities due to
    dilution by population size.

    It’s impossible for cities with huge populations like New York or LA, to ever be in the top crime rate rankings. Also, we have to consider fabricated statistics from cities with tourist dependent economies. We also have to look at crime collecting and reporting methods. These crime statistics are meaningless as far as comparing cities. Oakland is no better or no worse than the top twenty cities in crime in the Country. All of the other city yearly rankings are interchangeable with the possible exception of Detroit, Saint Louis, and New Orleans, which have been consistently in the top three for the last decade.

    Before these police killings, Oakland was down nearly 60% in homicides compared to last year. Serious crimes were down nearly 25% in Oakland. What’s with all the self-hate in this city? Oakland loves to hammer itself over the head. Oakland is always trying to prove how bad it is. Always looking for the most incriminating evidence or crime rankings. What’s the point of all this self-hate.

    We already know that Oakland, along with the rest of the United States, has a serious crime problem. There’s a massacre in this Country just about every week. The mayhem caused in big cities and small towns alike finally hit Oakland in a big way. Next week, it will be another crazy criminal or despondent person wiping out more people somewhere else. As long as this National problem gets pinned on individual cities it will never be resolved. This is a National problem and we need a National conversation. Pitting cities against cities with insignificant crime rankings doesn’t address the problem.

  38. dto510

    Navigator, I strongly disagree with your assertions. To the contrary, Oaklanders are constantly looking for excuses to avoid dealing with our problems, and therefore to avoid making the hard choices necessary to make the city better. The massacre of four police officers did not happen somewhere else, and is indeed the worst such incident in this state in 40 years.

    Large cities like NY and LA used to be in the top ranking of crime nationwide, and then they implemented new policies that dramatically reduced crime and violence. How much evidence do you need to be persuaded that Oakland is doing a uniquely bad job providing public safety? I, for one, do not think we can honor the memory of our fallen heroes by sticking our heads in the sand. Instead, we must demand real action to work for the same goal for which these officers sacrificed their lives: public safety in Oakland.

  39. len raphael

    didn’t understand colin’s point, but it did get me thinking that because violent crime is so unevenly distributed across oakland geographically, racially, etc. comparing gross ratios for entire cities could be obscuring.

    especially if we’re trying to draw some cause and effect local city policy conclusions from the stats.

    don’t know if the data is even available to compare say sections of east oakland to bed stuy in nyc?

    -len raphael

  40. We Fight Blight

    One of the key questions that continually pops up is what can be done to lower the crime rate, particularly the violent crime rate in Oakland. If one believes that persistent poverty and the concentration of poverty is a key determinent of crime in our communities then on a very simplistic level there seems to be two strategies: (1) reduce the amount of overall poverty; and (2) break up the concentrations of poverty. To reduce the overall poverty levels one typically focuses on addressing individual needs through improvements in education, after school programs, treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, income supports, food stamps/WIC, housing subsidies, Measure Y programs, job training and other publicly funded efforts. While there does not seem to be much of any effort to reduce the concentrations of poverty, theoretically one might focus on changing socio-economic levels in certain neighborhoods by attracting those of a higher socio-economic status into economically depressed areas. At times this might occur through market driven gentrification and at other times through specific changes in land use policies to promote certain types of housing/businesses. Jerry Brown’s 10k policy for downtown Oakland comes to mind. Of course, the question that comes up is fairness–should poor people be pushed from their homes and communities through gentrification and government driven policies in order to achieve reductions in crime? In Oakland, this takes on a dimension of race since some of the highest poverty rates and the highest concentrations of poverty occur within the Black communities of West and East Oakland. The difficulty here is that in Oakland there has been little sustained and proven success in providing a plethora of social services to individuals as a way to lift an entire community or neighborhood out of poverty. Certainly, there are success stories on individual levels but few to none on a community or neighborhood level. However, there are examples of neighborhoods that were once high crime areas that now have lower crime rates due, in part, to the changes in socio-economics driven by market based gentrification. Focusing only on providing a plethora of social services without fundamentally addressing the concentrations of poverty, the persistence of poverty, and the culture of poverty will not achieve the desired results of safer less violent neighborhoods in Oakland. This reminds us of the old urban planning debate about red light districts. Do you concentrate and contain adult businesses and their negative activities in a focused red light district or do you disperse them to minimize and water down the negative activities? In Oakland, we have pretty much contained and concentrated the poor neighborhorhoods to certain geographic areas of the City and have provided some levels of social services to mitigate the poverty. Has this really worked in Oakland? Has it really worked in other parts of the country? Are there any success stories since the advent of the Great Society that show substantive changes in the rate and concentrations of poverty can be acomplished and can be done within and by a community without a significant degree of market based or government driven gentrification? If poverty in Oakland is not the link to crime, then what is?

  41. Confused

    I’ve read through everyone’s comments, but I have not heard one solution that gives direction, or advice on what “oaklanders” should do. I hear complaints that “oaklanders” are ignoring the crime. I hear criticism on Oakland’s public school systems, the police force, politicians etc etc blah blah blah PUKE!

    To be honest the best suggestion I have heard so far was that we give every “responsible” adult in Oakland a gun and turn this town into the wild wild west. Boo Ya! Shoot em up BABY!! BAM BAM BAM BAM!

    Seriously, allow me to make several suggestions. Volunteer! Go to the East Oakland YMCA, Local boys and girls club, SPorts4kids, and volunteer. Coach a youth basketball team, tutor, visit and meet the neighborhood’s residents.

    Strengthen business districts, by supporting local markets. Don’t shop at Emeryville folks!! Stay Local. Forget Chevys, and eat some real good Mexican Food in Fruitvale.

    At sports4kids you can volunteer to coach football, basketball, volleyball and soccer teams. Do it!

    Visit churches, talk with community leaders. Get a real feel of what could be done and how you can honestly contribute as a resident of Oakland.

    My final advice is to not place the load upon politicians, police, or schools to fix our problems. Be apart of the community, be apart of something positive. Visit your community elementary school and ask the secretary how you can volunteer…tutor kids on science, music, and sports. Particulate in local business districts and clean up the streets. Take pride in Oakland, don’t hide and cower behind crime statistics. Don’t point and blame.

    Let me tell ya something. I coached sports for 3 years in an east oakland school on 69th and international. That was a tough area, real tough, yet after three years I knew lots of people and felt safe there. My boys basketball team finished their season undefeated….man they had a lot of aggression. My co-ed volleyball was unstoppable. Parents came together, kids loved it, and it was positive. I became known in the neighborhood. Tough ganster type looking teenagers will walk up to me and say “Yo Coach” because their younger sister or brother was on one of my teams.

    So stop your yapping and get out there. Make a difference. Contribute!

  42. Ralph

    Navigator, were you and Colin in the same math class. According to you logic, there is no possible way that Colorado Springs should be below NYC on the above list. What I think both you and Colin are missing is this a rate per 10K resident. When multiplied out you will see that the actual incident of violent crimes is significantly higher in NYC than in Colorado Springs. By calculating the rate per 10K people you negate the large / small issue. 10K people is 10K people no matter where you are.

    Len, I was interested in that same statistic. I know the incident of crime in Baltimore is higher in East Baltimore than in Roland Park. In DC, the incident of crime is probably higher in SE and NE than NW. I exclude SW as I think there are only half a dozen people who live there. I think the FBI may also have statistics by zip code. You may need to do some work to get to the actual statistic you are looking to obtain. Local PD may have it.

  43. oaklandhappenings

    V, I have been very patient with your criticism in recent days, and have tried to take it to heart. However, where you write “Your mindless boosterism and blame-shifting doesn’t help Oakland in the slightest” is not the type of wording I was hoping for, when I kindly ask for someone to correct me. If I post something inaccurate, I believe that it can be addressed in a way that it can be more of encouraging, and not in a put-down manner. Besides, I am not in denial of Oakland having a high crime and violence problem; I just feel–as many posters here do–that the city leaders should be held accountable. I am sorry that my posts have annoyed you in past days, and I will NO LONGER post/comment on this blog. I was very offended by the above part of your post, and for what I mentioned. Good luck in the future, with this blog. Please do me a favor, and delete as many of my posts/comments as you have time for. Thank you.

  44. bikerider

    The FBI uniform crime report is well known to be rather useless for these kinds of statistical comparisons. It depends entirely on information gathering by individual police departments, and the whims of what gets reported and what doesn’t.

    If you’ve ever seen seasons 3, 4, or 5 of “The Wire”, then you know the kinds of statistical games that are possible in order to game the stats. As such, the only truly reliable figure is the homicide rate, because a Death Certificate cannot be manipulated.

    Of course, the Oakland homicide rate ain’t so great either. But I don’t believe that the city ranks #2 in the nation.

    In terms of actual solutions, it would be better to focus on white color crime first. How many kids in poor neighborhoods could have received a first-rate education with the $50 billion Bernie Maddoff stole?

  45. Patrick

    Navigator: “Before these police killings, Oakland was down nearly 60% in homicides compared to last year.” Go, Oakland! Let me tell ya, if anyone knows how to work media “bias”, it’s you.

    Everyone, for my piece, allow me to say this: you’re all bogged down in the minutiae. Oakland’s crime rate is horrendous and unacceptable, regardless of your method of calculation. Period. I don’t really give a fuck about the crime rate in the western suburbs of Boise, Idaho, assuming there are any.

  46. Patrick

    Furthermore, V was simply attempting to illustrate a point. One simple point! By at least the COMMONLY ACCEPTED CRIME RATE METRIC, Oakland fares poorly. You can skew the numbers all you want (Yes! But how many Hawaiian/German midgets live in that city??!! They’re PROVEN KILLERS!), but the result is the same. WAKE UP! This kind of ridiculous chit-chat is not helping. 4 Police officers are dead. A suspected child rapist/pimp/murderer/felon is idolized by a percentage of our population. Our city is a cesspool in the eyes of the world, and increasingly by Oaklanders themselves. What are we going to do about it?

  47. James H. Robinson

    Please bear with me, I have some random thoughts:

    1) From what I’ve seen, you cannot lift an entire community out of poverty. The best way to reduce crime in an area is to “dilute” certain demographic groups. For example, I saw many improvements in DC over the years as a result of gentrification. I guess I moved to Oakland in the hope of being a gentrifier.

    2) If you are going to concentrate directly on reducing crime, make white-collar crime a low priority. White-collar crime is generally not directly responsible for getting people killed, defacing property, or giving people a negative perspective of a particular area.

    3) Even if Bernie Maddoff hadn’t stolen a dime, that money would not have gone to kids in poor neighborhoods. Rich people would have just invested that money somewhere else.

    4) We now have communities that have been in poverty for so many generations that I really doubt they even know how to get out of poverty, even if you put a massive factory smack dap in the middle of their community. See point #1.

    5) I was at the vigil for the slain police and I heard our Mayor’s speech. It was long on emotion and short on specifics. I think that summarizes Dellums’ tenure as mayor.

  48. Deckin

    1. Colin’s point is simply inane. Any city with more than 300K residents (data points) has easily enough of a target population to compare it off against another city of greater than 300K, even if that second city’s population is multiples of the first. One could claim that Oakland is disadvantaged in that it has a population heavily skewed to the criminal, but duh, that’s the whole point!
    2. For those of you who are of a depressive bent, new figures on out of wedlock births now have the illegitimacy rate for the entire country increasing. Yea! If you think that over 70% of African American and 50% percent of Latino babies being born illegitimately will have no impact on future crime rates, I’ve got a fixer upper on 74th and MacArthur for only 700K.
    3. People want solutions. But there will never be any solutions. Crime won’t be eliminated. The best we can do is make it pay and let the idiot thugs do the math for themselves. What a novel idea.
    4. Can’t afford more prisons? Uh, how are we affording things now without them? Ask those living in daily terror if they’re paying any price for our lack of imprisonment. The number of people in jail ought to be a function of the number of criminals; when it’s not, there will be blood.
    5. Bikerider’s comments are even more inane than Colin’s. More money for the education of the poor! Always the knee jerk answer. Question: Which schools get the most funding per student? Those in low income areas. The quality of a school is completely, and by that I mean virtually solely a function of the quality of the students. Take the students from Hillcrest and put them in Havenscourt (with all the old Havenscourt teachers) and vice-versa and guess what happens? Hillcrest will become a toxic school and parents will be beating down doors to get into Havenscourt.

  49. len raphael

    if our main goal was to improve oakland’s crime stats, i have no doubt that gentrification is the cheapest way to achieve long term major reductions.

    also no doubt that displacement of poor african americans to stockton or antioch is hecka more effective than dilution which tends to just spread crime around. san francisco played the displacement/urban removal game very effectively.

    but many of us are trying to figure out and push for a way to reduce crime for everyone in oakland without kicking out poor african americans.

    is it feasible? probably only at the margins. but say a 25% drop in violent crime is worth a lot of effort and cost in terms of fear and suffering.

  50. Dave C.


    I agree with much of what you said, but with regard to Madoff, many of his investors were actually large philanthropies, some of which are major funders of medical research, hospitals, civil rights groups, voting rights projects, mental health advocacy, transparency-in-government groups, inner city educational non-profits, big brother/big sister programs, etc. Two foundations which each gave away millions of dollars per year — JEHT and Picower — had to cease operations entirely after Madoff’s ponzi scheme collapsed.

    We can fault these charitable philanthropies for not diversifying enough or doing due diligence in order to protect their endowments, and not all of them are funding work that I necessarily support, but Madoff’s crimes will have real consequences for the poor and the sick, as funding disappears. This Bloomberg article has a long, long list of the diverse organizations that have received funding from foundations that were invested with Madoff, in case you’re curious.

  51. Colin


    I think I’m responsible for derailing this conversation, for which I apologize. Kudos to dto510 for making the larger point – people should be talking more about what he wrote than what I did.

    I’ll post something later this afternoon ELSEWHERE about why a simple ratio doesn’t express any qualitative value for widely divergent samples (and how dividing that figure by 10k doesn’t compensate for that). I will try to explain my point better, and you can call me inane and insensitive over there.

    But here that’s only a distraction from the larger point that Oakland has a crime problem and people need to be realistic about it – a point I agree with.

  52. Ralph

    Two steps to reduce crime, education, gentrification, and more education. Okay 3 steps. Youth of Oakland talk about not being able to obtain jobs. The answer is simple obtain an education. There are companies that moved to Oakland but had to look outside of Oakland to fill positions.

    Colin, I look forward to calling your post inane later. Two things which throw the statistics off – it requires that people report crime and you have to have an accurate population count. So at best we are looking at an estimate. I am curious to read what you could possibly say that would make believe that a stat that has been reported for decades is seriously flawed.

  53. Jennifer

    Ralph – you are so right about education and companies having to look outside Oakland for employees. If you can’t make change, you can’t work as a cashier anywhere. Many retailers have a checker test, and I know that many applicants who live in Oakland can’t pass it. It’s really quite sad.

  54. DontBotherDelores

    Here’s one to tickle y’all. The street outreach program we all pay through the nose for through Measure Y (not) usually goes out in with an employer that will set kids up for a job interview on the spot. So don’t tell me those kids can’t get jobs. I’m just saying y’all.

  55. Frankie D

    Rather than argue about how the statistics were gathered, I admit, Oakland, “IS TOO DAMN VIOLENT”. Now my suggestions for solutions;

    1. “Volunteer”, the post by Confused had the best suggestions for the average citizen I’ve read so far. Since money is tight we have to get off our butts and make up the slack.

    2. “More Cops on the street”, for the population of our city we have an unusually small police force.

    3. “Elect some new blood to run the city”, we have City Council people who have served for nearly 20 years, thats fine if you are an elected official in Atherton but with the chronic failures I’ve seen in Oakland over the years the lifers need to be run out of town on a rail not re-elected.

    4. “Walk, run, ride your bike, take public transit, provided you live in a neighborhood where your not taking your life in your hands to do this. Things are safer when there are more people out on the streets and the best way to know your hood is not from the seat of your car.

    5. “Shop and support local businesses”, (I know our retail base is pretty slim) but we need the sales tax revenue to pay for more cops and services so when ever possible shop and dine Oakland.

    6. “More take back the street nights”, I’m sure you all remember that mid August event that was city wide. We should be doing these events a lot more frequently and its a good way to know your neigbhors.

    7. “Hound the press”, get on them when the ignore a positive story about Oakland, yes we occasionally have them.

    These suggestions are coming from someone who was raised in East Oakland during the 60′s and 70′s, and remembered when Oakland public schools had a good reputation and you could actually walk through east Oakland after midnight and live to tell about it. Things didn’t turn gun violent until the 1980′s. These are just a few suggestions I can come up with for the average citizen to help curb violence short of calling out the national guard or all of us strapping on some irons and walking around like John Wayne.

    Even though I’d like to see V try that last suggestion.

  56. Art

    Deckin, your point on school funding is not entirely valid—-while you’re right about *District* resources, schools like Hillcrest receive a huge amount of money from parent contributions. Their website (okay, that the PTA even HAS a website should tell you something!) lists an 06-07 PTA budget of $240K, so tack at least another $800 per student on to District spending….not to mention the $400K that Hillcrest parents raised for a construction project a few years back, or the $300K that Chabot School is currently working towards to supplement District funds for its renovation projects. And active PTAs mean more parent volunteers at school, too. I don’t debate that which students are in a school has a huge effect on test scores, but remember that the “quality” students at Hillcrest probably all went to preschool, have involved parents and community members at school, live in financially stable homes, eat breakfast before heading to school, etc., etc. Poverty has a lot of devastating effects on children. Jonathan Kozol, who has spent his life researching and writing about poor children and their schools, said it best when he observed wryly that people are always astounded to learn that money is a pretty effective solution to the ills of poverty. (No, I’m not advocating just throwing money at the system, but broadly, we do need to be funding things like early education, stronger school support networks where home lives are more fragile and parents don’t have the luxury of volunteering, health care for children, etc.—all of this investment comes back to society tenfold—see the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project and other related studies).

  57. Art

    Oh, and BTW, the August block party event is National Night Out, which is August 4th this year. Not only is it a lot of fun to close your street for a party, but it’s also a national event that’s explicitly designed to foster community-police partnerships. I’d love to see Oaklanders make an effort to shatter the past records on number of blocks participating this year in tribute to the slain officers and as a first step in rebuilding the community-police relationship in some areas of the city.

  58. Colin

    I think I’ve done a better job explaining why UCR statistics aren’t a good measure here:

    Regardless, I would suggest people take heed of the FBI’s own disclaimer regarding these numbers, which is on the page V links to above:

    “Individuals using these tabulations are cautioned against drawing conclusions by making direct comparisons between cities. Comparisons lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents.”

    I think that using Oakland’s numbers from the UCR over the last 20 years makes the point more effectively, anyway.

    And I’m glad to see the discussion here back to the more important issue of what we do about it.

  59. Navigator

    Who in the world doesn’t know that Oakland has a crime problem?

    What’s the point of always digging up the worst possible statistics and crime rankings? Isn’t crime down in Oakland this year despite the recent tragedy? No one is burying their heads in the sand. However, I know that this is a National problem which has a lot to do with unsupervised parolees, along with the proliferation of hand guns and assault weapons. Pretending that Oakland, or any other city for that matter, can solve this problem, is ludicrous. If it makes some of you happy to constantly slam this city, than so be it. But, don’t count me in with your negativity. Oakland has enough hatred coming from outside the city. Oakland doesn’t also need the constant self-hate coming from within city limits.

    I repeat crime in Oakland is down in 2009. That’s good news. We should be talking about that fact instead of digging up meaningless and incriminating crime rates for 2008. And yes, I question anyone who enjoys constantly putting Oakland in a bad light. This isn’t about putting your head in the sand because Oakland’s crime problems are documented better than ANY city in this Country. There is no city which goes through the vilification for having crime the way that Oakland does.

  60. Navigator

    I’m with you Oaklandhappenings, I’ve had it with the constant negativity and put downs of our city. It’s one thing to fight City Hall, but you folks take it to a whole other level by constantly vilifying and denigrating your own city. Many of you would do well working for the San Francisco Chronicle.

  61. confused

    Another thought, and I’m glad to see that the conversation is slowly, and I mean “slowly,” moving toward something constructive….as in WHAT we can do.

    Everyone is so caught upon statistics, and I’m pretty certain that most Oakland residents can acknowledge that Oakland has a crime problem. They don’t need statistics to show them that their city is “supposedly” worse than many others.

    Here is my gripe with this whole article, and the constant negative press Oakland gets. It marginalizes the people working hard every day to make their neighborhoods better. As I stated in my above post, when I was coaching youth leagues in east oakland, I had parents and families that came out and supported their children. These families live in East Oakland, and they take pride in their homes, their schools, and their blocks. Now, I would say that 95% if not more, (I hate statistics mind you) of the people living in the area are good people. They may be a little poor, or perhaps they can be considered un cultured, but overall they are honest and good folk.

    Now all this focus on the negatives is basically giving the attention to the small percentage of folks that are causing harm. Yes, the crime numbers are high, but that still does not change the fact that the majority of Oakland residents are law abiding.

    The negative news coverage on Oakland only achieves in making people not want to live in Oakland, which hurts our city. Oakland is a great town, diverse, cultured, and not to mention the best weather in the bay area. 70 degrees all year round? Amazing.

    I want to support what Frankie D suggested, and that is for us as Oakland residents to put pressure on local media outlets to give us positive stories. Show us the hard working folks trying to make this City great. Now……I am not saying that we simply ignore the murders, and the crime. That should be reported as well….but I think there should be more coverage on the good. I want to hear what folks are doing in response to the crime.

    Lastly, again everyone should participate in some way. Pay more attention to the election cycle…bring in new people. Volunteer, stay local, support your city.

    Calling it a “cesspool” only makes it more like a “cesspool”

  62. Tallysmom

    To Art and Oaklandhappenings — I’ve been here for 25 years and I’ve seen lots of coming togethers — to “Take back the night” and National Night Outs in order to stem the tide of crime and gangs….

    All I have to say is — if joining hands and singing Kumbaya was all it took, these problems would have been fixed a LONG time ago. But it doesn’t work. In another week it will business as usual again.

    What’s the answer — damned if I know. But tis isn’t a new problem. This is generational — multi-generational….

  63. Mike Caton

    Volunteering with kids is a great way to make a difference. For years I volunteered with Be A Mentor, a local big-sibling program, but it’s based in Fremont. ( It only took me a couple hours a week and it’s one of the best choices I’ve made in the last 10 years.

  64. Izzy Ort

    For anyone keeping count, the decline in murders compared to last year, which had been 60%, is now only 24% — 29 this year, 38 last year.

  65. Max Allstadt

    Of course it’s creeping back up. Variations like 60% rarely sustain in any situation, crime or otherwise. What isn’t unusual is this simple rule:

    Politicians wait for a favorable month of stats to put out a press release claiming credit. When the stats go south, the same politicians will find something else to talk about. Endless. Worthless.

    Monthly stats, year over year… ABSOLUTELY WORTHLESS information. If you want to get statistical, look at multi-year trends, and never look at last month. Start your charts at least a year back. Then you might actually have something that shows you a glimpse of reality.

  66. Patrick

    Not to mention the power of percentages: 2 fewer murders compared to 4 last year is a 50% reduction, but 2 fewer than 100 is only a 2% reduction . That’s why my piñata stayed in the closet earlier this year.

  67. Ken O

    Has anyone else heard about using a local currency? The money stays local and creates a true “stimulus” vs the fake debt-based stimulus of our federal government. Been tried and is working in many cities around the US, and the world. What should we name our new local currency?

    I don’t think we should call it Dellums Dollars since he won’t be here much longer.


  68. Patrick

    Cities in Germany during the Weimar Republic tried “local currencies” to great effect. The problem is that without anything to back it up (i.e. “full faith and credit of the US Government, eventually someone is left holding a worthless piece of paper.

  69. Max Allstadt


    It’s not necessarily a difficult thing to pull off. Thing of them as coupons rather than currency. Say the chamber of commerce decides to do it. They sell Oakbucks redeemable at any member’s business. Put stickers in the windows of any business that accepts Oakbucks. An Oakbuck would cost 90-95 cents and redeem for a full dollar at participating businesses.

    Effect: discount for people who commit to shopping local. No government permission or action required. It would be even easier to do it all on cards with pins, or all online.

    Totally doable. And for a town surrounded by other towns with more malls, I think this might be a smart retaliation strategy.