Crime in Oakland, California

Crime in Oakland, California
Crime rates ()
Crime type Rate*
* Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.

Source: [ ]

Crime in Oakland began to escalate during the late 1960s, and by the end of the 1970s Oakland's per capita murder rate had risen to twice that of San Francisco or New York City.[1] In 1983, the National Journal referred to Oakland as the "crime capital" of the San Francisco Bay Area.[2] Crime continued to escalate during the 1980s and 1990s,[3] and during the first decade of the 21st century Oakland has consistently been listed as one of the most dangerous large cities in the United States.[4] Among Oakland's 35 police patrol beats, violent crime remains a serious problem in specific East and West Oakland neighborhoods. In 2008, homicides were disproportionately concentrated: 72% occurred in three City Council districts, District 3 in West Oakland and Districts 6 and 7 in East Oakland, even though these districts represent only 44% of Oakland's residents.[5]


Challenges of crime

Crime remains one of Oakland's most serious challenges, and Oakland continues to have a reputation among its own citizens, its understaffed police force, and residents of other Bay Area cities as a dangerous place, with one of the top five highest rates of violent crime in the U.S.[4][6][7] According to Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts, during 2011 Oakland has averaged three street shootings per day, some of which cause injury or death to innocent bystanders. Batts also said “You don’t want a police state, but you want enough [police] to deal with the demand in the city.”[8] The number of police officers in Oakland has steadily declined during the past several years. "But the men and women of the Oakland Police Department are still going out there and still stopping dangerous people, people with weapons, and trying to make a difference in the community," said Officer Jeff Thomason, a department spokesman.[9][10]

Crime rate

Oakland ranks highly in California for most categories of crime, and violent crimes such as assault, rape and murder occur from two to five times the U.S. average.[11][12] The 120 murders recorded in 2007 made Oakland's murder rate third highest in California, behind Richmond and Compton. Historically, most murders have occurred in West Oakland and the flatlands of East Oakland between I-580 and I-880.[13][14] Montclair, Rockridge and some areas in North Oakland have fewer problems with violent crime.[15]

Property crime is widespread throughout the city. Oakland recorded the highest robbery and motor vehicle theft rates in California, with one robbery per 114 citizens and one car theft per 40 citizens, three to four times the state average.[16] Carjackings occur two to three times more frequently in Oakland than in other cities of comparable size, and police have recorded at least one reported carjacking in every Oakland neighborhood.[17]

African Americans comprise less than one-third of Oakland's residents, yet they are over-represented in crime statistics, and most homicides occur in African-American neighborhoods.[18][19] Journalist Earl Ofari Hutchinson mentions crime in Oakland as an example of a rising problem of "black-on-black" crime, which Oakland shares with other major cities in the US.[20] Bill Cosby mentions Oakland, Chicago and Detroit as a few of the many American cities where crime is "endemic" and young African-American men are being murdered and incarcerated in disproportionate numbers. Cosby opines that the parents of such youths and young men, and "the Black community in general," have failed to inculcate proper standards of moral behavior.[21]

In 2006, when Oakland's homicide count in reached its highest total in more than a decade,[22] the five-year average for homicide victims in Oakland was broken down as follows: 77% Black, 15.4% Hispanic, 3.2% White, 2.8% Asian and 1.6% Unknown. The five-year average for homicide suspects in Oakland breaks down as follows: 64.7% Black, 8.6% Hispanic, 0.2% White, 2.0% Asian and 24.4% Unknown. In 2006, homicide victims under the age of 18 tripled compared to previous years. Five year averages compiled for 2001–2006 showed that 30% of murder victims were between the ages of 18 to 24 and another 33% were between 25 and 34 years old. Males made up 96% of suspects and 88% of victims.[18]

The homicide drop in 2010 was the city's fourth in a row, and violent crime in general was down 27%. Although the police department’s resources have been diminishing, according to Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan the Oakland police department is committed to improved public safety by increasing police presence during peak crime hours, improving intelligence gathering, and moving more aggressively to arrest violent crime suspects.[7][23]

Police understaffing

Despite its high crime rate, Oakland has fewer police officers than many other major cities.[24] “When Police Chief Anthony Batts took this job, we started out with 830 officers. We’re down to about 666 officers. If this city is going to be a safe place for us to live and raise our family then we as a city have to determine what it’s going to cost us to do that and how to get there,” Oakland City Council President Larry Reid agreed with Batts that more police officers are needed but said that "residents will have to open their wallets first." [25]

In Oakland, the number of police officers has been declining, and case loads are increasing. Since 2003 the number of police officers in the country's fifth most dangerous city has declined by 102.[24] The number of crimes that each officer has to deal with is double or triple those handled by officers in other major California cities.[24] The number of homicide detectives is down from 14 in 2010, to 9 currently.[26] Detective caseload is more than any other major city in California, except Fresno.[27] In 2008, the Police Department had the lowest homicide clearance rate among California’s large cities because the department is understaffed and the detective work in certain instances is not as thorough because there are simply not enough officers.[28]

In 2004 the number of police officers per 10,000 residents was as follows:

  • Baltimore—49
  • Newark—46
  • Philadelphia—46
  • Chicago—45
  • New York City—44
  • Detroit—39
  • St. Louis—39
  • Atlanta—35
  • Cleveland and Boston—34
  • San Francisco—29
  • Los Angeles—23
  • Oakland—18

Since that year the number of police officers in Oakland has declined by approximately 12%.[24]


  1. ^ Jerry Brown’s No-Nonsense New Age for Oakland by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal Autumn 1999
  2. ^ Government Research Corporation (1983). National journal. National Journal Group. p. 2474. 
  3. ^ Heather Mac Donald (Autumn 1999). "Jerry Brown’s No-Nonsense New Age for Oakland.". City Journal. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  4. ^ a b Oakland Moves From 3rd To 5th In Most Dangerous City Survey « CBS San Francisco
  5. ^
  6. ^ Crime in Oakland: Perception, reality or both?, Oakland Tribune.
  7. ^ a b Gradually, Oakland a less deadly place - Inside Bay Area
  8. ^ Man charged with killing Oakland 3-year-old
  9. ^ Oakland Ranks Fifth In Crime Nationwide - News Story - KTVU San Francisco
  10. ^ Man killed in Oakland shootout was wanted
  11. ^ Crime Rate Comparison: Oakland Vs. San Jose
  12. ^ Oakland Crime Statistics : California ( CA ) -
  13. ^ San Francisco Chronicle. Homicide in Oakland: 2006 (Map). Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  14. ^ Gini Graham Scott (1998). "Investigating Homicide in Oakland: An analysis of Homicide Patterns and Investigative Approaches in 1997". Behavior Research Associates. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  15. ^ Oakland Crimespotting interactive map.
  16. ^ Hill, Angela (Oct 1, 2009). "Crime in Oakland: Perception, reality or both?". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  17. ^ San Francisco Chronicle. Oakland sets unhappy mark in carjackings (Map). Retrieved 2009-09-13. 
  18. ^ a b Urban Strategies Council. Homicides In Oakland. 2006 Homicide Report: An Analysis of Homicides in Oakland from January through December, 2006. February 8, 2007. Accessed 2008-08-09.
  19. ^ Racially Correct Definition of Overrepresented
  20. ^ Pacific News Service. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, August 13, 2002. Black on Black—Why Inner-City Murder Rates Are Soaring. Accessed 2008-08-09.
  21. ^ The Breaking Point » Bill Cosby: Race man, pariah, hero
  22. ^ SFGate : Oakland: Plague of Killing
  23. ^ Oakland memorializes the 94 homicides of 2010 – Oakland North : North Oakland News, Food, Art and Events
  24. ^ a b c d Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods - Oakland Police Department Understaffed
  25. ^ Community remains shaken by shooting of three-year-old – Oakland North : North Oakland News, Food, Art and Events
  26. ^ Oakland Murder Investigators Worry About More Cuts « CBS San Francisco
  27. ^ Charts: Homicides in California’s largest cities; Oakland homicide detectives’ case loads, wages, overtime | The Chauncey Bailey Project
  28. ^ Understaffed Oakland department behind other cities in solving homicides | The Chauncey Bailey Project

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