Crime in Oakland, California

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Crime rates* (2014)
Violent crimes
Aggravated assault765.9
Total violent crime1685.4
Property crimes
Motor vehicle theft1590.0
Total property crime5943.3

*Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.

** Legacy definition[1]

Source: FBI 2014 UCR data

Crime in Oakland began to rise 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.[2] In 1983, the National Journal referred to Oakland as the "1983 crime capital" of the San Francisco Bay Area.[3] Crime continued to escalate during the 1980s and 1990s,[4] 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.[5] However the homicide rate in Oakland has dropped substantially in the 21st century,[6] compared to the late 1980s and early 1990s.[7][8]

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.[9]

Challenges of crime[edit]

Crime remains one of Oakland's 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 less safe place, with one of the top 20 highest rates of violent crime in the U.S.[5][10][11] 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.”[12]

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.[13][14]

Crime dynamics[edit]

Oakland ranks highly in California for most categories of crime. Violent crimes including assault, rape and murder, occur from two to five times the U.S. average.[15][16] The 120 murders recorded in 2007 made Oakland's murder rate the third highest in California, behind Stockton and Compton. Historically, most murders have occurred in West Oakland and the flatlands of East Oakland between I-580 and I-880.[17][18] Montclair, Rockridge and some areas in North Oakland have fewer problems with violent crime.[19]

Property crime is widespread throughout the city. Oakland records one robbery per 91 residents[20] and one car theft per 40 residents, three to four times the state average.[citation needed] 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.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23] African American boys in Oakland also face significant educational challenges due to high crime rates in their communities: for the 10 years to 2013 "787 black boys and men in Oakland were victims of homicide. During that same time, just 802 graduated prepared to attend either a California State University or University of California school."[24]In 2010 the superintendent of Oakland schools set up an African-American male achievement initiative with one of its goals being to cut incarceration rates of black male students by half.[25]

In 2013, of those arrested for homicide, 84.4% were black, 9.4% hispanic and 6.3% white.[26]

In 2011, there was an increase in violent crime in general and homicides in particular. As during previous years, a large majority (100) of the 110 homicide victims, as well as a preponderance of known suspects, were black or Latino.[27] The homicide drop in 2010 had been the city's fourth in a row, and violent crime in general had dropped 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.[11][28]

Crime against the city's taco truck vendors in the Fruitvale district came under scrutiny after the killing of a vendor's 5-year-old son in December 2011. Some truck vendors responded by hiring armed security guards, citing continual robberies and ineffective police response times.[29]

As of November 2012, the city had experienced 115 killings that year, with 4 considered "justifiable", such as in self-defense or officer-related killings. This included the killing of seven people on April 2 at Oikos University, the largest mass killing in the city's history. 22 homicide victims were women, up from 10 the previous year. Killings related to arguments were at 18, compared to nine in 2011. 9 were domestic violence-related, compared to 7 in 2011. Retaliation killings were at 14, compared to 8 in 2011. Confirmed gang-related killings were at 10, with 15 gang-related killings in 2011.[30]

2016 is on track to have a below average year for homicides in Oakland with only 63 homicides currently recorded as of November 7th 2016. There is, however, a trend of non-lethal shootings occurring such as shooting in the arms or legs.[31]

Operation Ceasefire[edit]

In 2013, Oakland implemented a gang violence reduction plan used previously in other cities, Operation Ceasefire, based on the research and strategies of author David M. Kennedy.[32]

Domain Awareness Center[edit]

The Domain Awareness Center (DAC) is a joint project between the Port of Oakland and the city. Planning started in 2009 as part of a nationwide initiative to secure ports by connecting motion sensors and cameras in and around the shipping facilities. In 2013, the Oakland DAC integrated 130 cameras from the Port of Oakland and four city cameras.[33] By including gunshot detection and license plate readers the DAC would allow police to faster investigate suspects (which does not exactly equal the alleged shift from "reactive to proactive" crime treatment).[34]

Internal issues with the Oakland Police Department[edit]

Despite its high crime rate, Oakland has fewer police officers than many other major cities.[35] "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."[36]

Partly due to an ongoing negative rapport between police officers and community members, evidence of which can be traced back to times preceding The Black Panther Party, and which reemerged in the wake of the Oakland Riders scandal in 2003, the shooting of Oscar Grant in 2009,(though it occurred in Oakland, it did not involve Oakland police, but rather a transit officer for BART) and the controversial handling of Occupy Oakland protesters in 2011. The homicide clearance rate has declined from 70% to approximately 40% in recent years, primarily due to a reduction in the number of investigators. [37]

A remarkably small percentage of current Oakland police officers live in the city itself, primarily due to the high cost of living..[38]

In Oakland, the number of police officers has been declining. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of police officers in Oakland declined by 91.[35] The number of crimes that each officer has to deal with is double or triple those handled by officers in other major California cities.[35] The number of homicide detectives decreased from 14 in 2010 to 9 in 2011.[39] Detective caseload is more than any other major city in California, except Fresno.[40] 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.[41]

Comparative police staffing levels[edit]

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

Since that year the number of police officers in Oakland has been cut by approx. 13% to 15.6 per 10,000 residents, resulting in Oakland being called "the city with half a police department." Official estimates are that for a city with Oakland's level of crime approximately 1,100 officers are needed to adequately patrol the city; as of the beginning of 2013, Oakland employed only 616 officers.[35]

As of 2010, the city of New Orleans, whose murder rate outpaces that of Oakland,[42] had 48 officers for every 10,000 people.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FBI".
  2. ^ Jerry Brown’s No-Nonsense New Age for Oakland by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal Autumn 1999
  3. ^ Government Research Corporation (1983). National journal. National Journal Group. p. 2474.
  4. ^ Heather Mac Donald (Autumn 1999). "Jerry Brown's No-Nonsense New Age for Oakland". City Journal. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
  5. ^ a b Oakland Moves From 3rd To 5th In Most Dangerous City Survey « CBS San Francisco
  6. ^ Oakland sees biggest drop in homicides since 2004 << San Jose Mercury News
  7. ^ Oakland Sets Record for Homicides << Los Angeles Times
  8. ^ Murder rates dropped in S.F., Oakland in '96 << SFGate
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-03. Retrieved 2011-10-29. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Hill, Angela (Oct 1, 2009). "Crime in Oakland: Perception, reality or both?". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
  11. ^ a b Gradually, Oakland a less deadly place - Inside Bay Area
  12. ^ Jones, Carolyn; Lee, Henry K.; Kuruvila, Matthai (2011-08-12). "Man charged with killing Oakland 3-year-old". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  13. ^ Oakland Ranks Fifth In Crime Nationwide - News Story - KTVU San Francisco
  14. ^ Lee, Henry K. (2011-06-27). "Man killed in Oakland shootout was wanted". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  15. ^ Crime Rate Comparison: Oakland Vs. San Jose
  16. ^ Oakland Crime Statistics : California ( CA ) -
  17. ^ Gus D'Angelo. Homicide in Oakland: 2006 (Map). San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  18. ^ Gini Graham Scott (1998). "Investigating Homicide in Oakland: An analysis of Homicide Patterns and Investigative Approaches in 1997". Behavior Research Associates. Archived from the original on 2008-02-12. Retrieved 2008-02-14. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  19. ^ Oakland Crimespotting interactive map.
  20. ^ Artz, Matthew (May 7, 2013). "Oakland: Robbery capital of America". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  21. ^ Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writer. Oakland sets unhappy mark in carjackings (Map). San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-09-13.
  22. ^ 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. Archived October 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Pacific News Service. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, August 13, 2002. Black on Black—Why Inner-City Murder Rates Are Soaring. Accessed 2008-08-09. Archived October 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-05. Retrieved 2012-02-28. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ Oakland memorializes the 94 homicides of 2010 – Oakland North : North Oakland News, Food, Art and Events
  29. ^ Plagued by Crime, Oakland Food-Truck Vendors Unite for Protection Archived 2012-03-06 at the Wayback Machine, Shoshana Walter, The Bay Citizen, Mar 3 2012. Retrieved 2011-3-2.
  30. ^ HARRY HARRIS and KRISTIN J. BENDER: Recent surge of killings has Oakland at 115 homicides, surpassing last year’s count of 110 - mercurynews November 26, 2012
  31. ^
  32. ^ Tammerlin Drummond: David Kennedy talks Oakland and Ceasefire - mercurynews, April 28, 2012
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Domain Awareness Center May Bring Proactive Policing to Oakland".
  35. ^ a b c d "Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods - Oakland Police Department Understaffed". Archived from the original on 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2011-09-02. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  36. ^ Community remains shaken by shooting of three-year-old – Oakland North : North Oakland News, Food, Art and Events
  37. ^ Winston, Ali. "Getting Away With Murder". East Bay Express.
  38. ^ "Only 54 police officers live in Oakland; many police recruits also live outside Oakland". OaklandLocal. Archived from the original on 2013-04-27. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  39. ^ Oakland Murder Investigators Worry About More Cuts « CBS San Francisco
  40. ^ Charts: Homicides in California’s largest cities; Oakland homicide detectives’ case loads, wages, overtime | The Chauncey Bailey Project
  41. ^ Understaffed Oakland department behind other cities in solving homicides | The Chauncey Bailey Project
  42. ^ a b Archived from the original on 2013-05-03. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)