East Palo Alto 3rd on FBI's Crime List
East Palo Alto may have dropped its title as murder capital
of the country, but the latest FBI figures show that the Peninsula community has the
third-highest violent crime rate in the state.
The FBI report covering 1994 also ranked the East Bay communities of
San Pablo, Emeryville and Richmond among the state's top 10 for violent crime.
East Palo Alto had 27.4 violent crimes - homicides, rapes, robberies and violent assaults
- per 1,000 people, according to 1994 statistics provided to the Associated Press. The
numbers are the most recent available from the FBI, and they include all California
cities, both incorporated and unincorporated communities.
Still, East Palo Alto, a city of 24,000, had only seven murders in 1994, far less than the
record 42 reported in 1992. The drop in crime was attributed in part
to a multi-agency task force that the East Palo Alto Police Department formed in 1992 with
officers from other areas, including Menlo Park, the San Mateo Sheriff's Office and the
Highway Patrol. The effort nearly doubled the average number of officers and
investigators. Several organizations have also implemented violence prevention programs in
the community and its schools.
According to police records in 1994, East Palo
Alto suffered seven murders, 14 rapes, 188 robberies (86 with firearms), 462 assaults (69
with firearms). Ninety percent of the homicides in the city involve handguns, said Sgt.
Don O'Keefe of the San Mateo Sheriff's Department. State figures estimate that 75 percent
of murders in California are committed with guns, of which 87.9 percent are handguns. In
the category of nonviolent crime, the community had 271 burglaries, 688 thefts and 262
Police say the city's relatively high crime rate is affected, in part,
by great availability of alcohol and drugs and a high percentage of economically depressed
areas. Studies show that risk factors of violence include poverty and availability of
alcohol and drugs.
Smaller rural towns accounted for four of the five California
communities with the highest rates of violent crime. Topping the list is the small town of
Corning, at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley. The town of 6,471 has, like most
communities, solid churches, active youth leagues, a strong community spirit - and 40
violent crimes per thousand people.
Police credit much of the problem to the high
alcohol and drug use in Corning. Anthony Cardenas, Corning police chief, also said that
the police department does a more thorough reporting of domestic violence cases, which he
said accounted for 50 percent of the 1994 crime statistics. [What about gun ownership? Alcohol outlets?]
Another associated factor may be the high unemployment in the
predominantly agricultural area, police said. At the time of the high crime rate in 1994,
many lumber mills in Corning were closing, Cardenas said. Olive crops were also
decreasing, hurting the local economy considerably, he said.
Suggestions for accompanying graphs: violent
crime rates in top five cities, other Bay Area cities and Los Angeles County; U.S. solved
homicides, relationship between victims and murderers, showing that 78.3 percent knew each
other, while 21.7 percent were strangers; U.S. and California homicide rates by sex,
showing that males are overwhelmingly the victims and perpetrators of violence. All the
information for these graphs is in th is handbook.
Suggestions for accompanying sidebars or follow-up stories: East Palo
Alto's violence prevention programs and their failure or success rates.
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