East Palo Alto -- once regarded as the murder capital of the country -- has seen a 56 percent decrease in violent crime since 1986, according to researchers at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.
The school's Center for Criminal Justice released a report Wednesday, titled "Crime Trends in the City of East Palo Alto," that found drops in all major crimes, including burglary, auto theft, larceny, aggravated assault, robbery, rape and homicide.
The report was funded through a grant from the Wachovia Foundation to conduct projects for community development, Program Director Sarah Lawrence of the Center for Criminal Justice said. The East Palo Alto Police Department has limited resources, which made the report particularly valuable, Lawrence said, .
"Part of the idea behind the report was to provide East Palo Alto with something that they can build on each year -- a stepping stone," Lawrence said. "It is a great tool that they can use to move forward."
Although the city has successfully curbed crime rates, Lawrence said the level of violence in East Palo Alto remains high.
"We found that the city had dramatic drops in crime, but, despite that, they still have a very serious violence problem," she said.
Police Chief Ron Davis said officers have made consistent efforts to reduce crime and violence and intend to use the findings to shape their tactics.
"I think the value is that it reinforces the good work that we have done, but it also reinforces the fact that our current crime rate is far too high for our community," Davis said. "The study provides the intelligence to make future strategic decisions."
Compared to other California cities that experience similar crime rates, East Palo Alto has the lowest number of sworn police officers per capita, with just nine officers per 10,000 people.
"We are one of the lowest-staffed departments in the country," Davis said.
"But East Palo Alto's story is going to be the future story for all police forces. The economy will bring them back to where we're at.
"What's important is what you do with the resources you have."