|Richmond Retains Title
November 22, 2005
Richmond retains its title for the most dangerous city in California of its size (100,000 to 499,999) and 8th in the United States, based on 2004 statistics. Richmond’s homicide rate, which climbed by three over the last couple days is nearly seven times the national average.
Richmond has a land area of nearly 34 square miles, but most of the homicides occur within a two square mile area in central Richmond that lies roughly along the Union Pacific railroad tracks that cut diagonally through Richmond.
The time has come for Richmond to take on this debilitating statistic of violence. Experts have been providing the blueprints for years, but we haven’t followed them. Other cities have pointed the way with successful initiatives that have borne long term success.
For example, in New York, Giuliani introduced an accountability tool in 1993 called Compstat where crime statistics were collected and analyzed on a daily basis to recognize patterns and potential problems. The statistics were used to hold each borough commander’s feet to the fire. Any individual who did not buy into the accountability system was demoted or gone. Strategies for fighting crime were developed and tested on an ongoing basis. In the 1990s, New York went from being one of the most dangerous cities to one of the safest, and it remains that way today.
The problem in Richmond is that no one has been held accountable over the long term. Policing is part of the solution but not all of it. It takes a village to erase crime.
It is time for Richmond to have a crime prevention “czar,” a violence prevention coordinator who will use the blueprints we already have to build a safer city, and in a construction analogy, hold each vendor and each subcontractor responsible for his or her contribution to the completed project.
The following is from today’s West County Times, but the same news has been on every media outlet in the Bay Area and beyond. Next time someone asks me what we are doing about crime, I want to be able to say that we are doing something different than we have ever tried before, and that they should soon expect a call from the crime czar asking them what they are going to contribute, when they are going to do it and what they expect the results to be.
RICHMOND - City leaders reacted with equal parts frustration and denial to a national study released Monday that shows Richmond led California in violent crime for the second straight year.
Morgan Quitno Press' "12th Annual Safest and Most Dangerous Cities" survey show shows Richmond led a field of 90 large California cities in per-capita violent crime in 2004, and was 11th in the nation.
Richmond also led California in 2003 and placed 12th in the nation that year.
"To me, it's just a report. It does not reflect the progress, the partnership, the continual programs we've been bringing into the city," acting Police Chief Terry Hudson said. "I don't believe Richmond is any more dangerous than anywhere else in the country."
Hudson questioned both Morgan Quitno's credentials and its methods. Mayor Irma Anderson fretted about the morality of young criminals.
"These kids have no regard for human life, and that's the biggest and most painful thing we have to deal with," Anderson said.
But the Lawrence, Kan., publisher of reference books did not intend to pick Richmond's scabs with its report, president Scott Morgan said. It used nothing but the same public information available to anyone through the U.S. Department of Justice, he said.
"I'm not a criminologist. Criminologists actually hate what we do, ranking cities according to crime rates. Crime is the one area where, for whatever reason, you're not supposed to rank things," Morgan said. "I think that if people can take anything from this research, they can see a ranking like Richmond's as a huge red flag."
In cities that have not weathered two decades of endemic urban street crime, such a red flag might prompt leaders to declare a state of emergency. Here, they covered that ground at the City Council months ago, and it didn't help.
"Even though the homicide rate has not changed, there seems to be more interest in finding solutions," said City Councilman Tom Butt, commenting in part on the council's June deliberations about declaring a largely symbolic state of emergency. "We either have to accept the fact that this is the way it's going to be or do something different."
The Morgan Quitno survey ranks cities by analyzing their annual totals in each of six serious felonies: homicide, assault, robbery, rape, burglary and auto theft. Richmond, a city of about 100,000, rates well above the national per-capita average in most of those categories.
A per-capita average measures the number of incidents per 100,000 population. The national per-capita average for homicide was 5.5 last year. Richmond had 35 killings, and 38 in 2003.
A killing on Monday was the city's 34th homicide this year, compared with 28 at this time last year. The brazen nature of some recent homicides has increased a sense that the city has lost control of the situation.
Last week in a daylight shooting one man was killed and three others wounded at one of the city's busiest intersections. The suspects carried out the shooting with no apparent concern about the police, witnesses or innocent bystanders, police said.
Two large public forums drew hundreds this year, one organized by local faith leaders in June and another by Anderson in October. Last week, Anderson persuaded the City Council to adopt "a public health approach" to violence, meaning the city would focus its program and funding requests on dealing with crime as a public health problem.
At the same meeting, Butt pushed for an "anti-violence czar" who would coordinate the city's anti-violence programs.
"This person would secure commitments from the city and all of the agencies and organizations that need to play a role in solving this problem and then monitor them month after month, year after year," Butt said. "That's the only way we're going to get a handle on this."
This year wore on the public psyche more than most, prompting city leaders to publicly discuss the problem more often than usual.
"The key is bringing to the table different people who have the capacity to reach the young men and women who are engaged in these homicides," said Shumake, who helped organize the Black on Black Crime Summit in June. "Then we can steer them to resources like jobs and job training that will make a difference."