The Public Eye

Mayoral candidate Angelique Ashby relied on bad data for crime claim

Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby stands with supporters at a press conference, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, after formally announced her candidacy for mayor of Sacramento.
Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby stands with supporters at a press conference, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, after formally announced her candidacy for mayor of Sacramento. lsterling@sacbee.com

Sacramento Councilwoman Angelique Ashby has promoted herself as the public safety candidate in her run for mayor. She has repeatedly said that crime in her district was cut nearly in half during her first term in office.

However, after The Sacramento Bee questioned those numbers last week, Ashby acknowledged Monday that she relied on inaccurate crime statistics provided by police and that the crime reduction in her district was far lower than the 48 percent drop she has cited.

The data she used did not account for the 2011 redrawing of City Council districts, which resulted in a large population decline in Ashby’s district and removed neighborhoods that traditionally have experienced more crime.

What’s more, while crime dropped citywide by nearly 14 percent between 2012 and 2015, the rate in North Natomas remained flat, according to numbers provided to The Bee by the Police Department. Each of the seven other City Council districts saw larger crime reductions than Ashby’s district over that time period, the numbers show.

Ashby said she was at first skeptical of the 48 percent crime reduction figure and that she “double and triple checked” the number with the Police Department. Emails show Ashby was provided faulty data as recently as November. City Manager John Shirey and Police Chief Sam Somers took the blame Monday for providing her with bad information.

While Ashby acknowledged Monday she relied on inaccurate data for one of her main campaign statements, she noted that North Natomas had the second-lowest per capita crime rate of any City Council district, behind only the district covering the Pocket, Greenhaven and Valley Hi neighborhoods. She said her per capita numbers would have been lower, but her district has more large commercial centers than most other districts, leading to a higher numbers of larcenies. North Natomas also ranked at or near the bottom every year between 2012 and 2015 in homicides, robberies, rape, aggravated assaults, burglaries and auto thefts, according to the police figures.

“No matter what the numbers show, I’m proud to be the council member for a district that’s working together and seeing good results,” Ashby said. “Part of the reason I’m running for mayor is to build on these results and the partnerships we’ve built and bring down the per capita numbers in other parts of the city.”

Ashby said she has helped add police officers in Natomas schools, coordinated private security at the area’s low-income housing complexes, promoted summer programs at libraries and expanded neighborhood watch efforts. Ashby has the support of the region’s largest public safety unions in her race against former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and a field of lesser-known candidates.

“From Day One, a 48 percent crime reduction has been the central rationale for the councilwoman’s candidacy, and now that turns out to be completely, indisputably wrong,” Steinberg campaign spokesman Jason Kinney said. “I’m not sure which part is more troubling: that her numbers were so off base or that she couldn’t tell the difference.”

Shirey and Somers said police command staff gave Ashby crime data that led to a flawed comparison.

The City Council approved new district boundaries in September 2011. Before that, Ashby’s district was home to 106,729 people and included North Natomas, South Natomas, Gardenland and most of downtown, according to district maps kept by the city.

Ashby’s new district boundaries – on which she based her 2014 crime numbers to calculate the 48 percent drop from 2011 – covers just North Natomas and is home to 55,141 people, according to the city. So while crime may have been cut nearly in half in District 1 during Ashby’s first term, the population of her district also decreased by 48 percent. The district also lost neighborhoods that have traditionally higher crime rates than North Natomas.

After holding “several discussions” with Ashby since last week, Shirey said he does not think Ashby was “trying to somehow mislead people.”

“I honestly do not feel that Angelique was aware that the district boundaries had not been changed” when comparing the 2011 numbers to 2014, he said. “I think it was an innocent mistake. We’ve got a little egg on our face here.”

She told reporters after a closed-door forum with the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce in November, “I have had tremendous results in my own district with reducing crime by 48 percent and improving business.”

In January, at a Metro Chamber forum that was open to the media, she said, “If you’re looking for someone to pass big statewide legislation for you, then I’m not your girl. But, if you want to reduce your crime rate like we have done in Natomas by, say, 48 percent in my first term, then you should vote for me.”

Those two forums were used by the Metro Chamber as a basis for its endorsement in the mayoral race. The Chamber later endorsed Ashby.

On her City Council website, Ashby lists a 48.31 percent drop in North Natomas crime among her first-term highlights. Ashby said Monday her office planned to remove that figure from the website.

Ashby has the endorsement of the major public safety groups in the region, including the Sacramento Police Officers Association, which represents city police, and the union representing Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies.

Last month, she announced the endorsements of the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the Sacramento County Probation Association.

“There is no issue that will have a greater effect on the future of our community than whether our streets are safe and our neighborhoods secure,” she wrote in an email announcing those endorsements. “As Mayor, I’ll bring the same results to our city as I have to Natomas, where we cut the crime rate nearly in half.”

Sacramento mayoral candidates Angelique Ashby and Darrell Steinberg square off at a Chamber of Commerce sponsored event at the Crocker Art Museum. Mayoral candidates Tony Lopez and Russell Rawlings were not invited.

Ashby emphasizes that she's a different person than Kevin Johnson. "For one thing, I'm a woman."

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

City crime statistics

The overall number of major crimes in Sacramento dropped 14 percent between 2012 and 2015. In District 1, the North Natomas council district represented by Angelique Ashby, crime was unchanged.

District 1

Year-over-year change

Citywide

Year-over-year change

2012

1,859

N/A

23,553

N/A

2013

1,846

-0.7%

21,211

-9.9%

2014

1,661

-10.0%

18,198

-14.2%

2015

1,843

11.0%

20,279

11.4%

Source: Sacramento Police Department

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