Violent crime rose faster during the first six months of 2015 in Sacramento than in any of the 25 largest U.S. cities tracked in an annual FBI crime report, according to an analysis released this week by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.
An increase in violent crime was not unique to Sacramento. About three-quarters of California’s largest cities saw violent crime rise in 2015, after years of declines.
But the rise was particularly sharp here: 1,830 violent crimes reported between January and June, up 25 percent from the same period in the prior year.
The city’s violent crime rate rose from 302 per 100,000 residents during the first six months of 2014 to 379 per 100,000 residents in early 2015. Of the 25 largest cities tracked by the FBI and listed in the PPIC report, no other saw a violent crime rate increase that large. In California, only one, smaller city – San Bernardino – saw a larger increase in its violent crime rate.
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All types of violent crime – murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault –increased in Sacramento. The increases persisted throughout the year and beyond the period tracked by the FBI, the latest city police statistics showed. A Bee analysis of city police data in October found that the largest violent crime increases were in poverty-stricken areas of the city, particularly neighborhoods near Del Paso Boulevard and Mack Road.
The spike in crime has devastated Sacramento families. Jackie Andersen still wonders every day why her son Isaiah Diaz, 16, was gunned down in front of his grandmother’s home in Colonial Village. Nearly five months after the slaying, no arrests have been made.
Andersen, 37, has tried to keep a tight leash on her remaining children because the killer is still on the loose. “If (my kids) leave, I have panic attacks. I don’t want to lose them, too,” Andersen said, adding that she schools one child at home because of safety concerns.
Property crime rates also rose in the city. Among the 25 largest cities tracked by the FBI, Sacramento saw the fifth-largest increase in property crime rates from early 2014 to early 2015, the PPIC analysis found.
Magnus Lofstrom, the PPIC fellow who led the analysis, said Sacramento and other California cities “need to take a close look at what is going on” and begin to respond to the crime increases.
But, he added, it is too early to say exactly what is causing the increase. Sacramento, he noted, has seen a long-term decrease in violent crime. The city remains demonstrably safer than it was 10 or 20 years ago.
One theory is that the crime increase is a result of fewer people in jail because of Proposition 47, which passed in 2014 and reduced many nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Lofstrom said there is not enough data yet to evaluate the impact of Prop. 47 on crime. Violent crime has also increased outside of California, in states that did not increase prison releases.
“I think what we are seeing are relatively widespread increases in both violent and property crime,” Lofstrom said. “It looks like we are breaking our long-term trend.”
The FBI data, released last month, are preliminary, and only include cities with more than 100,000 residents. Most, but not all, of the nation’s largest cities submitted complete, comparable data. Some key cities missing from the data were Washington, D.C., Oakland, Indianapolis and Charlotte, N.C.
Of the roughly 250 cities with more than 100,000 people tracked in the new FBI report, 10 saw higher increases in their violent crime rates than Sacramento, according to data analyzed by the PPIC.
While violent crime increased quickly last year, Sacramento does not have the highest crime rate in California. Stockton, Modesto and San Bernardino, among others, were significantly more dangerous, as measured by their violent crime rates.
Sacramento police spokeswoman Officer Traci Trapani said six months’ worth of data isn’t enough to provide a comprehensive picture of crime trends in the city and nation.
Responding to the report and surge in crime, she said, “This is why we are implementing programs such as ShotSpotter. It’s allowed us to make some arrests out of North Sacramento.”
ShotSpotter is a network of microphones that listens for gunshots in high-crime areas and sends the information to law enforcement. About 3 square miles in the city’s troubled northern area are covered by ShotSpotter. Following a meeting with Mayor Kevin Johnson late last year, department leaders promised to deploy ShotSpotter to other trouble spots in the city. The city is also hiring more police.
“We’re trying to do more with technology,” Trapani said.
Sondra Betancourt, a community association leader in the Ben Ali neighborhood of North Sacramento, said more police are needed to fight crime. The city is hiring more cops, but it takes up to two years for them to complete training and start on the beat.
The city also needs more code enforcement officers and social service workers to combat blight and vagrancy, which give rise to crime, Betancourt said.
“It has gotten considerably worse,” she said. “Not at the hands of the Police Department – they are so short staffed.”
Derrell Roberts, executive director of the Roberts Family Development Center, said the city needs to put more money into youth programs to keep kids off the streets.
“Conversations about investing in our youth are good, but until we put dollars to it, it’s just conversation,” said Roberts, a longtime community leader in Del Paso Heights.
Roberts, who organized the $40,000 reward fund in the homicide case of Grant High football player Jaulon “J.J.” Clavo, said developing job training programs for underserved communities was key to ending violence.
“When employment is a part of somebody’s world, they tend not to do negative things,” he said.