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Report pegs Oakland with Country's 3rd Highest Crime Rate; Richmond Ranked 14th

Each year, the previous year’s crime rates published by CQ Press are old news. Richmond and Oakland jockey back and forth year to year to claim California’s most dangerous city award. Richmond had a precipitous drop in homicides in 2008, which dropped it way down compared to Oakland. This year, with 45 homicides and over a month left to go, Richmond may well reclaim its dubious lead in next year’s accounting.

However, let’s party while we’re ahead. Overall, homicides notwithstanding, Richmond may be heading for a safer 2009. As of September 2009, total Part 1 crimes were down 14.06% in the City.

As we used to say in Arkansas, “Thank God for Mississippi.” No matter how low Arkansas ranked in any number of comparisons, Mississippi was always worse, perennially sparing “The Natural State” from the embarrassment of the cellar.

This year, its “Thank God for Oakland.”

Report pegs Oakland with country's 3rd highest crime rate; Richmond ranked 14th

By Kelly Rayburn
Oakland Tribune

Posted: 11/23/2009 07:14:08 AM PST

Updated: 11/23/2009 07:24:32 AM PST


OAKLAND — Oakland had the third highest crime rate in the United States in 2008, according to a publishing company's annual report on crime in American cities.

CQ Press' widely followed but controversial rankings were released over the weekend and put Oakland among the country's five highest-crime cities for the third consecutive year.

Richmond ranked No. 14.

Oakland moved up two spots after ranking No. 5 in last year's report and No. 4 in 2007. Each year's report is based on crime data from the previous year.

Oakland's No. 3 ranking came despite a drop in crime of roughly 3 percent from 2007 to 2008 — an indication other high-crime cities also saw declines.

What's not reflected in the report is that Oakland is experiencing a more significant drop in crime this year. As of Nov. 11, reports of serious crime were down 13 percent in 2009 compared to the same point in 2008, while homicides had dropped by 17 percent.

Even with the drop, Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts, who began Oct. 19, has repeatedly called the city's crime rate "unacceptable" and even "an outrage."

"The level of carnage that takes place in this city to me is abhorrent, is an outrage in a city of this size," Batts said in a meeting with the Oakland Tribune's editorial board Thursday. "My passion is trying to stop the level of murders, homicides and deaths in this city if I possibly can."

The CQ Press rankings regularly draw fire from mayors and law-enforcement officials across the country. The U.S. Conference of Mayors last year ripped the report, calling it "misleading and a disservice to the public."

The company relies on FBI statistics, and in 2007 the FBI itself attacked the report, saying the "rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state or region."

In a statement, CQ Press acknowledged the controversy but suggested criticisms are "largely based on the fact that there are reasons for the differences in crime rates, not that the rates are incompatible."

The report relies on six categories of crime: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and vehicle theft.

"The rankings tell an interesting and an important story regarding crime in the United States," the company said. "Annual rankings not only allow for comparisons among different states and cities, but also enable leaders to track their communities' crime trends from one year to the next."

Topping this year's list as the highest crime city was Camden, N.J. After Camden were St. Louis, Oakland, Detroit, and Flint, Mich. Besides Oakland and Richmond, the only California city in the top 35 was Compton at No. 12.

Richmond ranked No. 9 in each of the past two years before dropping to No. 14.

Reach Kelly Rayburn at 510-208-6435.