Report shows big drop in East Palo Alto crime

'Crime Trends' report shows 56 percent reduction in violent crimes since 1986, but violence still a serious problem

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."

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Like this comment
Posted by Cynthia
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2010 at 9:58 am

This report is confusing, starts off with good news, ends with bad. I recently moved my family away after being born and raised in EPA. And one thing I've learned is that crime is everywhere, but as long as the media is owned/staffed by the "usual" people, since the 1800's. The focus will remain where it "usually" does.

I now live in a surburban area, my cell phone was "snatched" last week, while laying on my window sill. I am still shocked, because of the area I live in now. I hear police and emergency sirens weekly. Which leads me to believe that crime is everywhere, but the media mostly focuses on particular areas "for some reason".

Right now there is a show on E entertainment called "too young to kill", about young "surburban" kids that killed their parents and siblings. Also the show called "snapped" that focuses on mostly "rich" surburban" woman and men that kill for "more" money.

Rarely do I see any "good" news shared from EPA, negativity is more popular and helps "people" keep their superior attitudes.

I find it boring and redundant.

Like this comment
Posted by good job Chief Davis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:07 am

Good job, Chief Davis. And I hope he can get the officers he needs to keep improving safety in EPA.

I still remember when EPA had more than 40 murders per year. There were 4 this year, though that is still room for improvement, of course.

Like this comment
Posted by Alf
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2010 at 11:10 am

The FBI makes this sort of data available on via the DOJ web-site. The downward trends in violent crime are nationwide. Maybe the Berkeley study adds something over the FBI data (which is reported to them via every police department in the country), but if it doesn't .. why not just use the FBI data and save on the "drama".

Like this comment
Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

Yay East Palo Alto!! Good going!!

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2010 at 11:46 am

I am glad that they emphasized that there is still too much violent crime in EPA, because there are still hotspots all over town. Still, I agree w/Cynthia about crime being everywhere. The peninsula & south bay are part of a major metro area, so crime should be anticipated & precautions taken. There are of course the more "hidden" crimes, such as domestic violence and sexual violence, crimes against children, which cross all socioeconomic boundaries.

Even though I have my eyes open re this community & I am deeply aware of its problems, there are biases against EPA - media, social, local, political - many of which are unconscious but still powerful. Having both lived & worked in EPA, outside folks probably don't think about regular people here just going about their lives. And why would they? It's not attention-grabbing, everyone is busy living their own life & it's not something people focus on. However, I have to say, there is a lot of neighborly friendliness that never gets mentioned. Close knit, extended families, church and work connections, school connections, etc. There are people here with money, who work hard, take vacations, donate to good causes, do volunteer work, just like everywhere else.

But the onslaught of undocumented immigrants has made an impact. Many of them are scared to get involved in the community and the schools. They remain at poverty-level and don't have much education. The gangs and other criminals still are strong. The down side of so many people knowing each other is that when they're criminals, blood flows, lives are damaged, property crimes increase.

If this community could truly get behind education, we would be in a much better place in 10 years.

Like this comment
Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 16, 2010 at 11:55 am

I've worked in Ravenswood Schools since 1997, and am thrilled with the improvements happening there and all over the City of East Palo Alto. There is a long ways to go, but I have to agree with Hmmmm. If the kids can get educated they will grow up to have good jobs and not need the gangs. Many parents are themselves uneducated, so don't know how to help. But more are beginning to get involved in Ravenswood Schools, and that's good to see.

Like this comment
Posted by G TOWN
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm

East palo alto has always been a good city in my eyes. I was born in 77 raised on camellia dr.Im 33 now living my second childhood so to speak,my first years of childhood i was rushed into a adult.Once upon a time my life was like a movie,nothing you could pay to watch.I seen to much,to many war stories to tell.Now I see things crystal clear,I thank GOD every day for being hear.I love my hood and what it has taught me.

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