Crime Statistics, Lives Lost

A little earlier this month, I wrote something about being preoccupied by a small database project on Oakland’s homicides from last year. I should use the word “small” advisedly. Even though homicides represent a small slice of Oakland’s overall crime for 2012–the 500 or so shootings, the 2,200 other assaults, the 214 rapes, the 4,126 robberies, the 12,549 burglaries, the 7,020 stolen vehicles, the 6,006 larcenies–violent death casts a uniquely dark shadow across a community and robs it of any sense of security.

That’s the abstract level. On a more personal level, I wanted to gather as much information as I could on who had died, how they had died, and the aftermath of the deaths. That meant going from the Oakland Police Department’s often incomplete daily spreadsheets, which note times and locations of reported homicides, to media accounts that have the identities of victims. This is far from a novel project, unfortunately; the Oakland Tribune has been doing profiles on all the city’s homicide victims for the last several years (in fact, when I hit a dead end on finding names in several of these case, the Oakland police suggested we check the Trib’s year-end wrap-up, which had yet to be published). Back in the mid-90s, I edited a long series of stories at The San Francisco Examiner in which we tried to do a personal profile of every San Francisco homicide victim for a calendar year (we had reporters chasing after homicide investigators for details in more than 100 cases, I think; I was even less popular than usual among the reporters). Many news organizations have undertaken similar enterprises. The common thread in all of these projects, I think, is an attempt to humanize the people lost in the statistics.

As I wrote earlier, one pattern that emerged pretty early looking at all these cases was how relatively seldom anyone was arrested in the killing (at KQED News, we did a story last week that took a quick look at the most obvious reasons for the low arrest rate: lack of police resources, an underfunded crime lab, and, most important, the fact many people in the neighborhoods suffering the most from the plague of violence simply don’t trust the police).

For that story, we turned my homicide database into a map (below). You can click on the dots for the basic details of every death. Red dots show homicides that have not yet been solved. Green dots show cases that have been “cleared”–which means someone’s been arrested and charged. Yellow dots are cases ruled to be justifiable homicide. The single blue dot is for an officer-involved shooting also ruled to be justifiable homicide.


Eight Days of Oakland Violence

[Update, 2/27/12: I’ve updated the map below with reported shootings for the rest of February 2012. An explanatory post is here: A Month-Plus of Oakland Violence.]

Twenty-eight people shot, and seven of them killed, since last Sunday. That’s the toll in Oakland, as far as I can glean from news reports (detailed below; those numbers exclude about 45 other episodes, mostly robberies, in which guns were used in Oakland).

Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like a lot, though the Oakland Police Department’s latest weekly crime report, with preliminary numbers through last Sunday, actually suggests an overall drop in violent crimes so far this year compared to the year-ago period and the three-year running average. Anyway, the thing that made me do this was the report of seven people shot on a West Oakland street earlier today. News reports of the past week are listed below, and below them is a quick Google Map I put together.

Sunday, Feb. 5: Seven shot Sunday afternoon in West Oakland and North Oakland: Victims said to be in stable condition after a possible shoot out between two groups in 3300 block of Adeline Street.

Saturday, Feb. 4: One killed in East Oakland shooting Saturday: “About 2:40 p.m., officers responded to a report of a shooting in the 400 block of 105th Avenue, near Knight Street, in the Sobrante Park neighborhood, police said. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said. Police said they have no motive and nobody in custody.”

Friday, Feb. 3: Four wounded in Oakland shooting Friday night: “About 10 p.m., officers responded to a call reporting multiple gun shots fired in the intersection of 45th Avenue and International Boulevard, Officer Kevin McDonald said. The victims were taken by ambulance to an East Bay hospital, police said.”

Friday, Feb. 3: Murder report: Oakland Police Department tabular data (the department’s running summary of serious crimes in the city) includes a report of a murder in the 9800 block of C Street (East Oakland) at 12:20 p.m. I haven’t found a media account of this case.

Thursday-Friday, Feb. 2-3: Two killed, three wounded in spate of shootings in Oakland: “Two men were killed and three others wounded in five separate shootings between Thursday morning and Friday afternoon.”

Thursday, Feb. 2: Murder report: Oakland Police Department tabular data (the department’s running summary of serious crimes in the city) includes a report of a murder in the 400 block of 19th Street (downtown, close to the 19th Street BART station) at 7:42 p.m. I have found no media account of this case.

Thursday, Feb. 2: Oakland taco truck shootout wounds two: “A robbery attempt at an Oakland taco truck ended in a shootout early Thursday that wounded the taco vendor and an assailant, the latest in a spate of holdups involving food trucks in the city, police said.”

Sunday, Jan. 29: Two injured in East Oakland shooting: “The shooting was reported at around 7:50 p.m. in the 8900 block of Macarthur Boulevard, an Oakland police officer said. The two victims drove away from the scene on Interstate Highway 580. California Highway Patrol officers stopped to assist the victims, and they were transported by ambulance to a local hospital.”

Sunday, Jan. 29: Two dead four injured in three Oakland shootings: “The most violent shooting happened in the central part of the city, in the 1700 block of 20th Avenue at 1:48 a.m., where four people were fired on. One died at the scene, and a second was in critical condition. The remaining two are in stable condition. Police had just come from the 3400 block of Ettie Street in West Oakland, where another person had been shot and killed.” (The Oakland Police Department tabular data shows the murder on Ettie Street, in the northwest corner of West Oakland near the MacArthur Maze, as occurring in the 3200 block.)

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