If the New Year will bring anything positive after 12 months of economic decline, at least in East Palo Alto the crime and homicide rates are in free-fall, according to police.
The economic downturn has hit residents especially hard, with a 20 to 22 percent unemployment rate for 2010, according to the California Employment Development Department.
But despite economic hardships -- commonly believed to be a factor in crime levels -- the crime rate has declined steadily and substantially in East Palo Alto. The year 2010 is on track to record the lowest homicide rate in the city since 1999, when only one homicide occurred, according to police.
In 2010 there have been four homicides, half the total from 2009, when eight people were killed, police said.
As of Dec. 28, there have been 39 shootings compared to 85 in 2009. If this rate maintains, this will represent a 54 percent decrease, according to police.
"The crime reductions achieved by the City of East Palo Alto are a result of the community and police working together to implement progressive prevention, intervention and enforcement programs," Chief Ron Davis said.
A recent report by the Berkeley Criminal Justice Center (BCCJ) revealed that overall violence in East Palo Alto decreased by 56 percent over the past 22 years, from 1996 to 2008.
The 2010 crime statistics show these reductions are continuing and at even greater rates, Davis said.
Davis attributed the crime reduction to increased police staffing and to several initiatives in 2010:
* Launching Operation Ceasefire, a gun-violence-reduction strategy.
* Formation of a Violence Interdiction Team (VIT).
* Implementation of the ShotSpotter citywide gunshot-detection system;
* Creation of the Youth Court, a restorative-justice program that pairs young people accused of crimes with peer evaluation and justice.
* Implementation of the Parole-Reentry Program, which has helped persons recently released from prison to find housing, work and counseling and develop skills. The program served more than 150 parolees in 2010 and reduced the return-to-custody rate from more than 60 percent to 20 percent, Davis reported.