Oakland 4th in nation for murder

Daily Planet Wire Service
Wednesday September 25, 2002

OAKLAND – Preliminary statistics culled from U.S. Department of Justice records show that Oakland ranked fourth last year in the number of homicides among cities approximately the same size and could place higher next year given the rash of recent killings. 

Out of 11 American cities with populations between 350,000 and 450,000, Oakland – which has a population of 406,000 – ranked below St. Louis, Mo., with 148 homicides, Atlanta, Ga., with 144, and Kansas City, Mo., with 103. Oakland reported 84 homicides in 2001. 

The numbers come from a preliminary report released in June of this year that compiled data from cities with populations larger than 100,000. 

Franklin Zimring, head of criminal justice research at the UC Berkeley, said in an interview tuesday that Oakland could fare worse in 2002 given the increased number of slayings so far this year. 

“If you use 2001 as a benchmark, if no one else changes, Oakland is on track to move from No. 4 to No. 3 because Oakland already has 85 (homicides) so far this year,” Zimring said. 

The researcher said Oakland's demography is to blame. 

“Big cities with a concentration of African American ghetto areas and substantial Latino poverty areas create a recipe for being at the high end of homicide distribution,” Zimring said. 

The professor said that during the late 1990s, California experienced a 55 percent drop in homicide rates, a phenomenon that policy experts and researchers have yet to understand. 

“It's going to take serious scholars at least half a decade to figure out why the 90s experienced the longest and deepest decline in violent crime the United States had seen since World War II,” he said. 

Zimring said there are other cities with the approximate size and diversity as Oakland that have higher homicide rates. But because Oakland mirrored the sustained statewide downturn in killings during the 1990s, this latest upward trend in violent deaths – hitting 85 as of Monday night – is a great disappointment. 

“We now expect better,” Zimring explained. 

The report from the Department of Justice shows murder rates rose 3.9 percent around the nation overall. 

Among California cities, Los Angeles and Richmond ranked first and second, respectively, with Oakland third for homicides per capita.