Oakland, California’s homicide toll, which made national news when it soared last year to the highest in more than a decade, has dropped by nearly one-third so far this year compared with the same period a year ago, says the San Francisco Chronicle. It is a change that police, public officials, and community activists are embracing with cautious optimism. “I don’t know if you can draw out what is creating this trend, but it’s good news for Oakland,” said City Councilman Larry Reid, whose East Oakland district has the city’s highest homicide rate.
Last year, there were 148 killings in Oakland, a 57 percent jump from 2005 and one of the largest increases in a major city. It was more than the record high in San Francisco, a city with nearly twice the population. A rash of homicides in Oakland last weekend brought the number of killings to 27 so far this year, compared with 39 at the same time in 2006 — a decrease of nearly 31 percent. In San Francisco homicides are running ahead of the total this time last year. A year ago, the spiraling homicide rate became a major issue as the Oakland City Council struggled over plans to redeploy officers by altering police union work rules. Asked about the increase in San Francisco, a police spokesman said, “How can you explain it? There really is no rhyme or reason.” San Francisco homicides fell last year to 85 compared with 96 killings in 2005 — a decrease that police attributed in part to a drop in gang-related slayings.