Editorial: Must build on encouraging homicide statistics
Posted: 12/30/2010 12:01:00 AM PST
NEWSPAPERS, ESPECIALLY editorial pages, are often criticized for unfairly highlighting bad news in a particular community at the expense of the good news. Although it is the nature of the beast, it often can be a fair point. That is why we could not let the news of dramatic decreases in shooting deaths in some East Bay cities pass without comment.
Bay Area News Group reporter Karl Fischer on Tuesday gave us some encouraging news about violent crime statistics in the Bay Area. The news was particularly good in Richmond, which has long been plagued by shooting deaths.
The number of homicides in Richmond dropped from 44 in 2009 to 21 so far in 2010 with only a few hours left in the year. In Oakland, the number of homicides have fallen by 17 percent year over year, although it should be noted that Oakland saw a 23 percent increase in firearms assaults. Other cities also had decreases.
These numbers should offer some solace to residents of those communities and indicate that authorities in those places may be on the right track to improving conditions there.
There simply is no -- pardon the pun -- silver-bullet solution to stopping violent crime. Rather, it requires an array of strategies such as proper crime prevention policies, effective policing techniques, a substantial civilian involvement, substantial economic opportunities and effective police leadership, just to name a few.
We believe that both Richmond and Oakland have the right leaders for their police departments. Although he modestly deflects such assertions, we believe that Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus is a major reason for the successes in Richmond.
His hiring as police chief beginning in 2006 was a stroke of genius. There has been a major cultural change for the better in the Richmond Police Department since Magnus arrived four years ago. It hasn't been easy, but that change in culture is beginning to manifest in the streets of Richmond.
The city has pursued a number of innovative strategies that involve better and more aggressive tracking of parolees, gunshot detection technology and use of video cameras.
But most of the officers in the street seem to believe that a primary factor contributing to the violent crime drop is the geographic, patrol-based community policing strategy that Magnus implemented in 2006.
Anthony Batts is Oakland's chief who has been on the job for slightly more than a year. He, too, has undertaken to change the culture of the Oakland Police Department and seems to be well on the road despite some very trying circumstances. We believe that given the time and proper resources, Batts will get the job done.
None of this is to say that the job is done or even close to done. Far from it; the recent numbers are but an encouraging mile marker on the long and winding road to restore sanity to the streets of the East Bay. But, in a time and place where there has been so much bad news, we look for good news anywhere we can get it, and these numbers are a great foundation on which to build.