By Henrietta J. Burroughs
East Palo Alto Today
Posted December 20, 2010
Video excerpt from the Chat with the Chief meeting Click image above or click here
A newly released crime report, called Crime Trends in the City of East Palo Alto, held some very good news for East Palo Alto residents. Compiled over the past year at the University of Berkeley, the report presents a number of statistics, which show that crime in East Palo Alto decreased substantially over a 22-year period between 1986 to 2008.
East Palo Alto’s Police Chief Ron Davis made the report the total focus of the Chat with the Chief meeting that he held at the East Palo Alto Municipal Building on December 16. At the start of the meeting, Davis introduced the report’s author Sarah Lawrence, who proceeded to explain the major findings of the report.
Lawrence, who is the director of programs at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice (BCCJ) at the University of California, Berkeley, compiled the report with the assistance of Gregory Shapiro, a research associate at the center.
In presenting the crime data in the report, Lawrence emphasized that she merely collected the data, which already existed, from several local, state and federal sources. She also pointed out that while East Palo Alto was showing an enormous decrease in crime, crime was also dropping nationwide, albeit not as fast as in East Palo Alto. She admitted that the report does not explain why crime dropped faster in the city than it did throughout the country.
Below are some quotes from the report’s major findings covering the 22-year crime decrease in East Palo Alto:
Property crimes lower than the state
The report showed that the city’s property crime rate is much lower than the state average with 245 property crimes per 10,000 people compared with 294 per 10,000 for the state overall.
Decease in all major crime types
"The crime rate decreased in all major crime types since the mid-1980’s. The property crime rate decreased by 64% and the violent crime rate decreased by 56%. Crime has also been on the decline across the State, but East Palo Alto’s crime decline has been larger than the State overall. As shown in the figure below, the State’s total crime rate decreased by 49% compared to 62% for the City."
The report showed that “for the seven major crime types between 1986 and 2008 burglary decreased by 69%, auto‐theft by 12%%, larceny‐theft by 8%, aggravated assault by 58%, robbery by 54%, rape by 45%, and homicide by 558%.”
Level of violent crime remained high
However in spite of the decreases, the report concluded that “although the reduction in crime has been considerable, the level of violent crime in East Palo Alto remains very high, as the 2008 violent crime rate in EPA was 110 crimes per 100,000 people compared to the State average of 50 crimes per 10,0000."
In addition to the above statistics, the report brought out the fact that the large majority of homicides in the city involved victims and offenders who had prior criminal records.
According to the report, “Both groups had considerable arrest records, as 81% of homicide victims and 100% of homicide offenders had at least one prior arrest.”
Even with its major decreases in crime, “East Palo Alto ranks in the top ten among California cities in three of the four categories of violent crime (aggravated assault, homicide, and rape),” the report said. To read the complete report, click here. To read the report's executive summary, go here.
Later, in commenting on the report, Davis said, “This report highlights the great progress the City has made in achieving dramatic crime and violence reductions over the past 22 years amid its limited resources and understaffed police department.”
In referring in his statement about the East Palo Alto Police department being understaffed, Davis was alluding to findings in the report, which showed that the resources for the East Palo Alto Police Department were significantly lower than that of other police departments. In fact, the report stated that the East Palo Alto Police Department is significantly lower in officers per capita compared to other cities in California with similar violent crime rates and to other similarly sized cities in California.
Davis said, “As a community we should take pride in our success as it clearly demonstrates the true power of a community when it is united and working in partnership with its police department.”
Further in his released statement about the report, Davis thanked “the outstanding men and women of the police department for their hard work, dedication and commitment to our community” and he also thanked “the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice (BCCJ); specifically, Sarah Lawrence and Gregory Shapiro, for their hard work and partnership in completing this study.”
In the end, Davis wrote, “As we move forward in 2011, we do so amid notable crime and violence reductions this year (see attached crime statistical report). Yet, the BCCJ report underscores the reality that despite our past progress (even in 2010), our crime and violence rates are still too high. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels – the work continues and the need is great.”