Newsflash: The Murder Rate in Oakland is Alarmingly High – How Many Murders are Too Many Murders? – KALW vs. SFGate

[UPDATE: Writer Ali Winston explicates:

“We’re talking about crime reductions here, right? We’re not saying Oakland’s murder rate isn’t high – it is. But it is way down from two years ago. The numbers don’t lie – and the Chronicle left those crucial facts out of the article. We’re just pointing out the discrepancy with this morning’s article. Still offensive to you?”

No, we’re talking about whether or not the murder rate in Oakland is “stubbornly high.” There’s nothing wrong with the Chron’s bit – it’s perfectly cromulent. It should not frustrate “everyday readers.” Obviously, the Chron is not under any onus to cheerlead for Oakland law enforcement.]

I don’t know about you, but I hold debunkers and factcheckers to a higher standard. Keep that in mind as you check out KALW’s Ali Winston’s factcheck of Chronicle Staff Writer Matthai Kuruvila

“Sweeping generalities like “the homicide rate remains stubbornly high” are frustrating to everyday readers to begin with, but are even more agitating when they are not backed up by the facts. According to the Oakland Police Department’s latest weekly crime statistics (from 9/20/10-9/26/10), there have been 62 murders in Oakland this year, down from 80 in 2009. That’s a 23 percent drop, and a 39 percent decrease from the 101 murders in 2008.”

Maybe so, but, nevertheless, The Murder Rate in Oakland is Alarmingly High, right? That “fact” checks out, right?

A nice graphic from Justin Beck / SF Chronicle:

Oh well.

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6 Responses to “Newsflash: The Murder Rate in Oakland is Alarmingly High – How Many Murders are Too Many Murders? – KALW vs. SFGate”

  1. Ali Winston says:

    If you were actually going to follow the conversation and give your readers an accurate idea of what was actually being debated – it’s the 40% drop in homicides over the past two years.

    [V: We’re talking about crime reductions here, right? We’re not saying Oakland’s murder rate isn’t high – it is. But it is way down from two years ago. The numbers don’t lie – and the Chronicle left those crucial facts out of the article. We’re just pointing out the discrepancy with this morning’s article. Still offensive to you?

    V Smoothe 5 days ago in reply to Ali Winston
    Yes, I still find your suggestion that Oakland’s murder rate is something other police departments would find enviable incredibly offensive.

    Furthermore, I don’t see what “discrepancy” you’re referring to. The Chronicle article does say that reported crime has gone down, so I’m not sure what “crucial facts” you think were left out.

    Finally, I don’t think this piece gives an accurate picture of Oakland’s homicide number. You say that homicides in 2010 are 23% lower than in 2009. But in reality, we have about 23% of the calendar year left to go. So your comparison doesn’t actually make any sense. After reviewing the stats myself, it appears that this blog, which claims to “factcheck” the Chronicle story, is actually less accurate than the original article.

    KALWinformant 0 minutes ago in reply to V Smoothe
    V: Take a closer look at the weekly statistics from OPD that I link to above. They are labeled YTD – or year to date. The 23 percent drop in homicides is from a comparison in the number of homicides at this point last year. There were 101 murders in Oakland in 2009 according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (, not 80 for the year- as it seems you’ve inferred from looking at the OPD numbers. Please make sure you’re reading the documents correctly before jumping to conclusions.

    And if you checked in on our site somewhat regularly, you’ll see we report, not cheerlead. The above conversation should indicate our commitment to reporting fact, not conjecture. And this piece about more gang injunctions coming down the pipeline in Oakland might, just might, demonstrate our commitment to original reporting:

    So keep reading – we check your material too – and hopefully next time we’ll have fully-fleshed out, two way conversation. You’re more than welcome to comment on our site if you have questions, issues or opinions about our articles as well.

  2. sfcitizen says:

    And yet, “the homicide rate remains stubbornly high,” right? There’s no “debate” about that, right?

    The Chronicle writer’s statement works IF the homicide rate is high AND if it’s been high in the past. Check and check.


    What you should be saying is “Yeah, but…”

    What you’re actually saying is “No, and…”

    For some reason, you seem to not want to acknowledge that the Oakland homicide rate remains stubbornly high.

  3. Ali Winston says:

    One murder a year is one murder too many. There’s no question about that. But it is misleading to say something “remains” at a certain level when the hard and fast numbers show there’s been a decrease. Oakland, today, has 65 murders on the year to date. Last year, there were 92 at this point. 2006 saw 148 homicides. To me, that looks suspiciously like a marked decrease. If you’re looking for a similarly-sized city with a comparable crime rate to use as a barometer, let’s look at St. Louis, MO, which is about 50,000 people smaller than Oakland. In 2009, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, there were 143 murders in St Louis; in 2006, there were 129 murders in that city. By those standards, Oakland looks favorable.

  4. sfcitizen says:

    I don’t think it’s misleading. In fact, a decrease in crime in Oakland was noted in the same sentence. In fact, the whole bit was about the mayoral race. In fact, I don’t need to give my readers what you consider to be an “accurate idea of what was being debated” – what I did was to link to you and to the SFGate article so that the limited number of people who care can check things out. (Speaking of which, that’s more than what you did. So you don’t want to link to SFGate article, the one that set you off? That’s odd.)

    St. Louis is a pretty lousy standard, a pretty lousy yardstick, right?

    It’s obvious that you don’t think the murder rate in Oakland is “high.” Actually, the rate was high before and it’s high now. Spin that as you may…

    “There’s no bigger issue in Oakland’s mayoral race than crime. The homicide rate remains stubbornly high, even though overall violent crime has declined in recent years.”

    Read more:

  5. Ali Winston says:

    That’s what set me off – the first sentence – a decrease in crime and the “stubbornly high homicide rate.” Seems contradictory to me.

    When it comes to St. Louis and other cities – look at the murder rates in New Orleans and Baltimore, also of similar size and similar crime rate to Oakland over the past few years. You need yardsticks to compare crime rates, and “lousy” cities like St. Louis are unfortunately the company Oakland has kept recently regarding the crime rate.

    But if you don’t want to look at the numbers and the reality of what’s happened over the past few years, that’s fine. You don’t debate with facts, you debate with rhetoric. I’ll keep that one in mind for the future. Enjoy the Giants game.

  6. sfcitizen says:

    You are the self-proclaimed SF Chron “factcheck”-er. Yet, you haven’t stated which “fact” in the writer has wrong. In your opinion, OAK’s murder rate is not “stubbornly high.” IMO, and that of the SF Chron writer, OAK’s murder rate IS stubbornly high. A difference of opinion, right?

    The murder rate before was high. The murder rate now is high.

    If you want to factcheck the Chron, how about this?
    At the time and currently, admission at the Tea Garden for the people in the article was and is $7 per. RPD raised the prices without notifying anybody. That’s a fact, Jack. A factchecker could have spent 45 seconds looking up the phone number and calling the cashier but that didn’t happen, obviously.

    Now, if you want to say, after that bit gets corrected (maybe in a year or two the way things are going) that that $7 price is “high” then that would be your opinion. See?

    You simply have a difference of opinion with somebody, so using the term factcheck was inapropropriate.

    My post isn’t about Oakland’s numbers, it’s about your mistake.

    If you want to be all Princess-Di-is-wearing-a-new-dress, that’s fine. I haven’t seen the Giants in person or on TV in donkey’s years. Had a chance yesterday when I stared at a darkened TV and mentioned that the Giants game was on. My host understood me but didn’t want the game on on his box. OK fine. At some point in the playoffs, the Giants might get on broadcast TV but my free govmint digital converter died a few months back – my rabbit ears are now useless. Oh well.

    You can’t change the world
    But you can change the facts
    And when you change the facts
    You change points of view
    If you change points of view
    You may change a vote
    And when you change a vote
    You may change the world