A group of San Francisco Bay area cities has won the disturbing distinction of seeing violent crime rise as it continues to plummet in Los Angeles, says the Los Angeles Times. Oakland, San Francisco, and Richmond, in particular, have struggled with rising rates of serious felonies. Other Northern California cities, including Fremont, Novato, and San Rafael, also recorded increases. Oakland saw the number of homicides spike 57 percent in 2006 from the year before, one of the biggest jumps in a major U.S. city. One hundred forty-eight people were killed there last year; 2007 is shaping up to be a bit less bloody.
Criminologists warn that making broad generalizations about California crime trends oversimplifies a complicated and dynamic state. They note that fingering the culprit behind any change in regional criminal activity is difficult. They point to several factors that separate Los Angeles from its northern counterparts. Oakland, the state’s eighth-largest city, is home to a large population of parolees, who account for approximately 50 percent of the crimes committed there. The northern cities have seen steep increases in gang violence. And there are significant differences between north and south in police strategy, particularly in the use of CompStat, a computer crime-tracking program favored by Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton.