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Looking for Some Good News About Richmond Crime?

The latest FBI crime report shows all violent crimes down by 8% in Richmond, countering both a regional and national trend. For the raw FBI statistics, see http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/prelim06/t4al_ca.htm. Following is the FBI press release and a story about it on KRON Channel 4:


Violent Crime Scaring Oakland Merchants & Customers
Posted December 18, 2006 at 7:35 p.m.

OAKLAND (KRON) -- No one will be surprised that Oakland and Alameda County record more than their share of violent crime.  New statistics show just how dramatic that level of criminal behavior appears to be growing.

Nationally, the FBI says violent crime went up 3.7% during the first half of 2006.  In Oakland the rate is up more than 37% or ten times the national average.  In Hayward there were nearly a quarter more violent crimes during the first part of this year than during the same time last year.  San Francisco police investigated nearly 20% more crimes involving violence this year.  In Richmond, violent crime was actually down by eight percent.

KRON 4's Haaziq Madyun says one area of concern is the apparent rise in violent armed robberies of merchants in the Dimond district.

One worker, named "Carmen", was the victim of one of the robberies involving a young man with a knife.

"He just held it like that close to his face and told me to give him all of the money," Carmen told Haaziq.  "So I opened the register, handed him the money, and they ran out."

"Carmen" asked us not to use her face on television because she's concerned the robber could come back.  She adds that fear appears to be leading to a loss in business.

"Our sales have dropped," the robbery victim said.  "I'm pretty sure it's because our customers feel uncomfortable to come in and shop here because there are always funny people walking around like this guy.  He scares people."

She says some merchants have moved out of the area because of the rising crime rate.  She concedes Oakland police have increased patrols in the area but she says it would be better if the officers were on foot.

(Copyright 2006, KRON 4, All rights reserved.)

Dec 18, 2006 6:40 pm US/Pacific

Violent Crime Up Nationwide And In Bay Area

(BCN) OAKLAND Crime is up across the U.S., according to an FBI report released Monday, and as Bay Area law enforcement agencies look at homicide totals for the year, some cities are seeing a disturbing increase in murders over previous years' tallies.

Oakland police spokesman Officer Roland Holmgren said this year's 146 homicides to date are the most the city has seen in the past five years.

In 1992 there were 165 homicides in the city, he said.

According to the FBI, the incidence of violence crimes increased by 3.7 percent between January and June compared with the first six months of 2005.

The majority of murders in Oakland - around 85 percent - involve guns, Holmgren said. The remaining 15 percent involve anything from stabbing to battery, he said.

Homicides are often the result of poor conflict resolution - the days of settling disputes with a fistfight at worst are over, he said.

Holmgren said police "mostly see (homicides) in areas that are poverty stricken" and in neighborhoods with a high concentration of parolees and people on probation. When parolees move back to areas where they've previously committed crimes, they often face the same kinds of temptations that have gotten them in trouble before, he said.

But while Oakland has seen recent increases in youth crime and in gang activity, there's no clear pattern to when and where homicides take place, Holmgren said.

San Francisco has seen 81 murders to date this year, most of those also involving guns, San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina said.

But unlike Oakland, San Francisco's homicide rate has remained relatively steady, although after a spike in violence in late summer, police increased patrols in areas prone to violence, he said.

Another controversial violence prevention measure, installing cameras on city streets, is a City Hall matter because "the whole big brother concern ... comes into play," Mannina said. The Police Department doesn't routinely monitor recordings of street activity, but investigators can ask to view specific tapes if crime has been committed.

"They have to have a specific reason why they want to look at certain tapes," he said.

Mannina said that people coming into San Francisco from out of town contribute to violence in San Francisco. There is a perception in other counties that San Francisco is relatively soft on crime, Mannina said.

San Jose, the largest city in the Bay Area, with a population of almost a million, has seen 28 homicides so far this year, down from last year's 31 murders at this time, San Jose police Sgt. Nick Muyo said. That number was bolstered today by the deaths of two people following two separate shooting incidents in the past month, he said.

The city's worst spike in violence was in the first weekend in December, with three shooting deaths and the fourth death a toddler allegedly poisoned by her father.

Muyo said the police department is suffering from a shortage of officers - at 1.4 officers per 1,000 residents, San Jose's police force is smaller than the national average size of around 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents. Even the addition of 597 officers Police Chief Rob Davis would like to add to the force still wouldn't bring the ratio up to average, he said.

Across the bay, Richmond has seen 42 homicides to date, according to police, a total that already tops the 40 murders in the city as of Dec. 30 last year.

The city saw 24 homicides in 2004.

According to Holmgren, homicides aren't the best way to judge whether or not crime is increasing. The number of deaths in Oakland might be higher if it weren't for Alameda County's great surgeons, he said.

Rather, crime can be better gauged by looking at overall reported felony statistics, such as those compiled by the FBI.

An October report released by research company Morgan Quitno Press named Oakland the eighth and Richmond the 11th most dangerous cities in the U.S. Oakland and Richmond ranked fifth and seventh respectively in the tally of most dangerous cities with a population between 100,000 and 499,000.

Morgan Quitno's report uses FBI murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft statistics to compare crime records in each city surveyed to a national average.

In the same report, San Jose was named the safest of all 32 cities surveyed with a population over 500,000.

In Morgan Quitno's 2005 survey, San Jose again held first place as the safest city in the country. Richmond was named the 11th most dangerous city in the U.S. while Oakland ranked 21st.

"It's unfortunate that we're at a time where we're looking at (those figures) ... to rate where we are," Holmgren said.

Holmgren also stressed that homicide prevention isn't just about enforcement, but also prevention and intervention. The police department has also worked at to educate the city's residents about how not be become victims, he said. Job placement and substance abuse treatment programs also help.

Schools, neighborhoods, churches, communities and city government all have to be involved, he said. "This problem is bigger than just a police problem."

( CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

From the FBI:

Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation reported an increase of 3.7 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention in the first half of 2006 when compared to figures reported for the first six months of 2005. The violent crime category includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The number of property crimes in the United States from January to June of 2006 decreased 2.6 percent when compared to data from the same time period in 2005. Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Arson is also a property crime, but data for arson are not included in property crime totals. Figures for 2006 indicate that arson increased 6.8 percent in the first half of the year when compared to 2005 figures for the same time period.

The data presented in Tables 1 and 2 indicate the percent change in offenses known to law enforcement for 2005 and 2006 by population group and geographic region, respectively. Table 3 reflects the percent change within the Nation for consecutive years (each year compared to the prior year). Table 4 presents the number of offenses known to law enforcement for agencies having a resident population of 100,000 and over and providing 6 months of complete data for 2006. In addition, Table 4 presents 2005 data for the first half of the year, where available, as a point of comparison. All data in this report are preliminary.