A recent nation-wide report on crime in major cities ranked Richmond 14th and Oakland 3rd based on crime rates from 2008. Despite local perceptions that Richmond is the more dangerous city, Oakland seems to have a bigger problem in a comparison between the two.
The CQ Press calculates the crime rate rankings of the cities and metropolitan areas. These statistics are calculated using six crime categories: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft. The rankings include all cities of at least 75,000 residents that reported crime data to the FBI in the categories noted for calendar year 2008. CQ Press publishes the data as its annual City Crime Rate Rankings Report.
For sixteen years researchers, city and law enforcement officials and the news media have used the City Crime Rankings as a resource for information to follow trends in crime.
Although Richmond’s ranking has dropped in recent years, the city still ranks high on measures of crime and violence. Richmond scored 218.12 on this most recent City Crime Rate Rankings and Oakland scored 325.60.
Numbers from a CityLab comparison tell a similar story. CityLab currently collects and displays demographic data about 65 cities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. It has been designed as a working prototype for a nationwide city database that will allow reporters to compare important, but hard-to-find information about cities all over the country.
According to a CityLab comparison Richmond had 1,220 violent crime incidents while Oakland had 7,604. Oakland had 9,968 car theft incidents and Richmond had 2,309. Oakland has a population of 372,000 people and Richmond’s population is 98,000, almost a third of Oakland’s.
This means that a person would have a 2 percent chance of being involved in a violent crime in Oakland versus a 1 percent chance in Richmond. For car thefts, the numbers are 23 percent for Richmond versus a 27 percent chance in Oakland, adjusting for the difference in the two cities’ populations.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said that the city council continues to hold violence prevention as one of their highest priorities.
“Clearly, much work needs to be done. We must look at the roots of crime. For decades, cities like Richmond have suffered from racial and social injustice, accompanied by high levels of poverty. We will continue to see ups and downs in the crime rate, until these roots are fully addressed,” Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said.
City Councilman Tom Butt emphasized that the crime problem tends to be concentrated in certain parts of the city.
“Just like Oakland, Richmond is one city but a lot of parts to it. Whenever you are talking about Oakland or Richmond there are parts that a virtually crime free and there are other parts that suffer from crime on a regular basis. If you look at the map of homicides there are no homicides east of I-80 freeway and there are no homicides south of 580 and most of them are in those neighborhoods between 580 and 80, the ones in the older plate lines of Richmond. What is happening is not representative of the whole city; it is representative of a small part of it. It is terrible but I don’t know what else we can do as a city council,” said City Councilman Tom Butt.
But some residents don’t think that the city council has done all it can.
“I think the chief of police is doing a real good job but the city council can help more. The city council can give them help. Police need more equipment. They need video cameras and other equipment to help them do their jobs,” longtime Richmond resident Corky Booze said.
“It is a mess out here in Richmond. Young people are being killed all around so how can anyone say they have done enough,” said 23-year-old, Central Richmond resident Dominique Poston.
Being the 14th most dangerous city out of 393 may seem awful but it is a marked improvement considering where the city has ranked in previous years. In the past, Richmond has ranked in the top 10 on the crime report. Richmond has ranked as high as number two and in the last two years the city has ranked number nine.
Still, Councilman Butt and Mayor McLaughlin continue to believe there are good reasons to encourage people to live in Richmond. According to the mayor, despite the city’s struggles with crime, the city has many positive aspects that are often overlooked.
“I love Richmond. It is my home and I am proud to serve as mayor. Our great community is extremely resilient. We know we have many challenges. We also know that most of Richmond residents are hard-working and caring people. We are committed to collectively work through our problems and rising together. Many, many wonderful projects are occurring daily in Richmond. Sadly, the press doesn’t always capture the enormous positive work ongoing throughout Richmond,” Mayor McLaughlin said.