Violent crimes have continued to drop in the Bay Area according to new FBI statistics released last week.
According to the findings, 13 of the Bay Area's 15 biggest cities saw fewer recorded murders, robberies, aggravated asssaults and forcible rapes. Violent crime has also dropped by four percent across the nation, easing fears that the economic recession might cause a spike in crime.
"Everyone exprected them to go up because of the frustration and economic turmoil," said Carnegie Mellon University crime data professor Alfred Blumstein in an interveiw with The Huffington Post.
Instead, the drop is just the latest in a national and local five-year decrease in violent crime: San Francisco's annual homicide averages have nearly halved since 2004. And according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Fremont, Concord and Daly City saw violent crime declines of better than 20 percent last year.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi credits the positive news to a shift in criminal justice practices.
"I think it’s a direct result of smarter criminal justice policy," he told HuffPost. "In the 1980s and '90s, you saw much longer sentences and a cookie-cutter approach to law enforcement: a specific crime resulted in a specific sentence. Now you're seeing a much bigger focus on rehabilitation, drug treatment and employment programs."
Adachi pointed to the recent prisoner releases in California as proof. Over the past year, the state has shed tens of thousands of inmates from to address overcrowding issues. Despite fears of repercussions, the violent crime rate has continued to drop.
"In most cases, you really shouldn't be going to prison for nonviolent offenses," he said. "We've made that shift in San Francisco, so now the lion's share of our resources is going straight to felonies and violent crimes."
Adachi noted that since the shift, the murders solved rate has jumped from about 30 percent to 80 in San Francisco.
"Criminal justice policy really does make a difference," he said.
The FBI statistics were not so encouraging, however, in San Francisco's neighbor to the east.
In Oakland, where budget cuts forced the city to lose much of its police force to layoffs and attrition, violent crime jumped by 6 percent in 2011. Oakland saw a particularly heartbreaking spike in murder last year with 110 homicide victims, including three young children.
And the trend doesn't show signs of improving: according to the Chronicle, violent crime is already up 19 percent in the city in 2012.
"I feel like there are no words to describe collectively as elective officials how we have failed to get a hold of this reign that is destroying our city, and even killing our babies," said Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente to the Associated Press. "I don't think we have an excuse."