City Beat

Ashby, police release new data showing 13 percent crime drop in first term

Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby calls a press conference to provide crime numbers for her City Council district on Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby calls a press conference to provide crime numbers for her City Council district on Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif.

Crime in Sacramento Councilwoman Angelique Ashby’s district fell 13.1 percent during her first term in office, according to numbers released by her campaign and newly verified by the Police Department on Thursday.

Ashby held a news conference at the headquarters of the police officers union to tout the data as she runs for mayor. She also accused her main opponent – former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg – of orchestrating a smear campaign against her.

Over the same period from 2011 to 2014, crime across the city declined 17.1 percent, according to Police Department numbers. Those same numbers show a dramatic spike in 2015 across the city, including Ashby’s district.

Crime data became a point of contention in the mayoral race after she initially said that crime fell 48 percent in her district during her first term.

As part of an election fact check prompted by Ashby’s 48 percent claim at mayoral forums, The Sacramento Bee in March obtained crime data from the Police Department through the state’s Public Records Act. The department’s initial response showed a 13.1 percent reduction in her first term, well below the 48 percent claim.

After Ashby’s campaign challenged The Bee on the validity of those numbers, top city staff ordered a review of the data. The Police Department then acknowledged it had given Ashby and other council members figures that did not take into account new City Council district boundaries that took effect in October 2011, which reduced her district’s population by 48 percent.

Based on that review, City Manager John Shirey and police Chief Sam Somers Jr. provided The Bee with data showing crime in Ashby’s district was flat between 2012 to 2015. Shirey and Somers only provided crime numbers for the last three months of 2011 – after the new council district boundaries went into effect. They said at the time they could not verify data for the first nine months of 2011.

Somers said that the Police Department’s records division on Thursday calculated crime in North Natomas for all of 2011 and verified the data showing a 13.1 percent reduction was accurate.

Between 2011 and 2015, annual crime totals fell 7.7 percent across the city and 3.6 percent in Ashby’s district. Those totals were less impressive than the 2011 to 2014 comparisons because the city saw a spike in crime last year.

Crime totals in North Natomas remain among the lowest in the city.

Asked if she trusted the numbers she provided Thursday, Ashby responded, “It’s hard to trust numbers that are coming from the Police Department right now, but I think these are the closest numbers we can get to accurately reflect that period of time.”

The Ashby campaign Thursday released documents showing that a political consultant hired by the Steinberg campaign filed a Public Records Act request with the Police Department in February asking for crime numbers in each City Council district from 2010 to 2015. She said Steinberg was operating “in the shadows” and that he “smeared the work of the Police Department.”

“When the campaign attacks Ashby, the campaign attacks the good men and women in uniform who patrol the streets,” police union President Tim Davis said.

Steinberg campaign spokesman Jason Kinney said, “What the Ashby campaign calls ‘op research,’ everyone else calls basic fact-checking. It’s what elected officials are supposed to do before seeking higher office and going public with bad information.”

Kinney added that the reduction in crime in Ashby’s district was lower than the citywide average “so it’s hard to fathom why she continues to obsess about it.”

Ashby campaign manager Josh Pulliam on Thursday initially denied access to The Bee reporter who revealed her use of faulty crime data. About 15 minutes after the 2 p.m. news conference start, Pulliam allowed the reporter to attend, and Ashby repeated her presentation and answered questions.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

Related stories from Sacramento Bee