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FBI Acknowledges Density, Urbanization Play a Role in Crime

In his letter to the Alameda Re-use and Redevelopment Board (ARRA) meeting of September 10th, Transportation Commission Chair John Knox White asserted that “Reviews of the FBI’s crime data show no relationship between density and crime.” But data released on September 15th, and a forward to that data suggest otherwise.


On September 15th, the FBI released their Crime in the U.S. 2007 report. They caution though, against making “simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties.” They go on to list 13 factors “known to affect the volume and type of crime occurring from place to place.” The factors they list, in the order listed are:

  • Population density and degree of urbanization.
  • Variations in composition of the population, particularly youth concentration.
  • Stability of the population with respect to residents’ mobility, commuting patterns, and transient factors.
  • Modes of transportation and highway system.
  • Economic conditions, including median income, poverty level, and job availability.
  • Cultural factors and educational, recreational, and religious characteristics.
  • Family conditions with respect to divorce and family cohesiveness.
  • Climate.
  • Effective strength of law enforcement agencies.
  • Administrative and investigative emphases of law enforcement.
  • Policies of other components of the criminal justice system (i.e., prosecutorial, judicial, correctional, and probational).
  • Citizens’ attitudes toward crime.
  • Crime reporting practices of the citizenry.
  • Was the Transportation Commission Chair making a “simplistic and incomplete” analysis when he attempted to so quickly dismiss Alameda residents’ concerns about the potential for increased crime due to SunCal’s proposed high-density development for Alameda Point? What types of crime was he referring to? Violent crime or Property crime? One might guess that lower density suburban communities have a high number of home burglaries but fewer murders, for example. What type of crime worries you most?

    We’re working to crunch the numbers and match the crime report data to the U.S. Census data on density. One early, interesting observation – and we caution it’s too soon to draw conclusions – is that Emeryville ranked second behind Oakland in 2007 when calculating violent crimes per 10,000 residents: 124 for Emeryville versus 192 for Oakland.

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