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SF Chronicle review shows misleading crime data in Oakland

Oakland Police Department
Demond Henderson
Flickr / Creative Commons
Oakland Police Department

According to a San Francisco Chronicle analysis, Oakland’s police department has been publishing crime data that misrepresents the true nature of the city’s crime rates over the past few years.

The Oakland Police Department published the statistic that year-to-date crime decreased by 33 percent at the end of April. That seemed, at first, like a reprieve from the city’s longstanding struggle with high crime rates. However, the Chronicle’s review reveals discrepancies in how the data is compiled and presented by the Oakland Police Department.

Both Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and Governor Gavin Newsom referenced the 33 percent figure, which, according to the Chronicle’s analysis, overstates the improvement in crime.

The Chronicle found a consistent issue with how the OPD’s “Citywide Weekly Crime Reports” are calculated. The reports compare year-to-date totals from past years to incomplete year-to-date figures from the current year, which results in crime trends seeming better than they actually are.

While the OPD has recognized the flawed comparisons in the reports, they attribute these issues to technological limitations. The police do provide a disclaimer in each weekly report stating, that “Because crime reporting and data entry can run behind, all crimes may not be recorded.” However, when media outlets and politicians did cite inaccurate statistics, officials from the department didn’t do much to correct them.

The Chronicle’s analysis followed the work of Timothy Gardner, an Oakland resident, who first brought the issue to light in his newsletter.