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Violent Crime

Violent crime rate


Violent crime is a public issue that affects everyone’s health. In addition to contributing to death and disability, violence exacerbates various chronic diseases by inducing stress and fear. Constant stress and fear evoke unhealthy physical responses (e.g., high blood pressure), confine residents to their homes eliminating the health benefits of physical activity, and prohibit commuting via walking or bicycling to jobs, goods, and services. In addition, residents in high-crime areas mistrust neighbors and public institutions, leading to further social disintegration, which perpetuates further violence and stifles economic development.

Poverty and educational attainment are significantly associated with violence as measured through violent intentional injuries. As in the introduction, those with low educational attainment or who live in high-poverty neighborhoods suffer a high burden of fatal, intentional injuries. Upstream policies and programs that reduce poverty, increase educational attainment, and improve other SDOHs can also reduce violent crime.

Traditionally, health and law enforcement institutions have acted independently in their responses to violent crime despite the interconnectedness of its causes and consequences. Public health essential services, in partnership with community stakeholders, can integrate these historically separate downstream and upstream services into a holistic approach to prevent violence.


Note to LHDs in California: The California Department of Public Health’s Healthy Community Indicators (HCI) project has already collected, cleaned, and compiled these data from the Uniform Crime Reports for communities in California, which can be found at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/Pages/HealthyCommunityIndicators.aspx. Appendix D explains how to download and filter these data. Counties outside of California can acquire the data from Uniform Crime Reports.

Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) is a nationwide, cooperative statistical effort of nearly 18,000 city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies that voluntarily report data on crimes discovered by police and those reported to the police by the general public. The Federal Bureau of Investigation compiles these reports in a standard format annually. Four types of major crimes fall into the category of violent crimes: 1) murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. These tend to be more reliably reported than other less serious crimes, but underreporting has been well documented. Crime data are based on incidents that are reported to law enforcement agencies.

Furthermore, these data do not reflect crime in unincorporated areas or reported by special law enforcement agencies, such as transit or port authority law enforcement agencies. Limitations in the use of these data are detailed at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr-statistics-their-proper-use.

While there are limitations to the UCR, they are freely available and easy to analyze. The procedure below shows how to download and analyze the UCR. These steps will enable a health department to prioritize partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and other community groups. For organizations in California, the California Department of Public Health Healthy Community Indicators project has already cleaned and compiled UCR data for all places in California that report to the UCR.

STEP 01. Download the table “Offenses Known to Law Enforcement” by state and city (table 8) in an Excel spreadsheet for the most recent year (2011 at the time of printing) from the FBI website http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s.
First click on the year of interest:

Then, click on “Offenses Known to Law Enforcement.”


Then, click on Table 8, and click on California. There is a link that says “Download Excel.”


STEP 02. Obtain the total number of people living in your county/region from the 2010 Census. For the Bay Area, 7,391,453 people in 2010.

STEP 03. Identify the cities in your county/region

STEP 04. From the downloaded spreadsheet in Step 01, calculate the following statistics based on the variables in the UCR “violentcrime” and “population.”

A. Violent crime rate per 1,000 residents


B. Standard error, Poisson distribution (SE)


C. Lower 95% confidence limit


D. Upper 95% confidence limit


E. Relative standard error (RSE)


STEP 05. Sort the spreadsheet to rank from highest to lowest for each city’s violent crime rate per 1,000 inhabitants in your jurisdiction.

STEP 06. Calculate a cumulative total or running total of the population.

STEP 07. Identify the cities with the highest rate of crime and whose cumulative population approaches 10% of the jurisdictions’ population. (This 10% cutoff is arbitrary, but it serves as a good starting point for analysis absent other methods.) Health departments should routinely monitor those cities and approach law enforcement and other community organizations for long-term violence prevention interventions. Using this method for the Bay Area, the cities of Oakland, Emeryville, Richmond, Antioch, East Palo Alto, and San Pablo (highlighted in yellow) would serve as priority cities.


STEP 08. Consider excluding the places identified in Step 07 with fewer than ten violent crimes per year, a low population, a wide 95% confidence interval and/or a relative standard of error (variable: RSE) >30%. A jurisdiction’s crime rate and population that meet any of these criteria are considered unstable and should be interpreted with caution. For example, the City of Colma, although its violent crime rate places in the top ten in the Bay Area, meets all of the unstable data criteria.

STEP 09. For each priority city, download UCRs from previous years (Step 01) and construct a trend graph showing changes in violent crime over time.

STEP 10. Identify the priority cities with no decrease or little increase in violent crime over time. Based on these criteria, the cities of Antioch and Richmond should be prioritized for further health department, law enforcement, and other stakeholder interventions if they are not already.

STEP 11. Identify local agencies and institutions in the priority cities (step 7) for potential partnership.

Figure 25: Rate of Violent Crime, Antioch, 2006 to 2010


Figure 26: Rate of Violent Crime, East Palo Alto, 2006 to 2010


Figure 27: Rate of Violent Crime, Emeryville, 2006 to 2010


Figure 28: Rate of Violent Crime, Oakland, 2006 to 2010


Figure 29: Rate of Violent Crime, Richmond, 2006 to 2010


Figure 30: Rate of Violent Crime, San Pablo, 2006 to 2010



East Palo Alto Fit Zone Project
San Mateo County Health Department

Use of indicators and other data obtained through interagency cooperation has been crucial to the success of the East Palo Alto Fit Zone project. East Palo Alto is identified as a priority city in the Bay Area by the UCRs. The UCRs cannot, however, identify where within the city to plan interventions. Consequently, cooperation between community, law enforcement, and health agencies is needed to identify the high-crime areas to best direct resources.

Through this cooperation, the San Mateo County Health Department obtained and analyzed gunshot time and location data provided by the East Palo Alto Police Department’s shot-spotter system. This analysis—combined with disease prevalence data from the Ravenswood Family Health Center and a survey conducted by the UC Berkeley Center for Law and Social Policy—identified two neighborhoods for Fit Zone activities. These activities, funded by the California Endowment, include police officers leading fitness classes, field games, and bike rides as they provide security in the Fit Zones. In addition, health navigators from the Ravenswood clinic educate parents on site about nutrition and other healthy behaviors.

While this project is only in its ninth month at the time of this writing, preliminary results are encouraging. The frequency of gun shots in the Fit Zones have declined, police officers report more positive interactions with youth, and residents have more opportunities for physical activity and health education. Furthermore, the project is partnering with community organizations to identify Fit Zone residents who can eventually lead activities.

The project has its challenges, and questions about its long-term effectiveness and sustainability exist. Nevertheless, the East Palo Alto Fit Zone Project is a promising real-world example of how interagency collaboration and the health department’s application of at least one essential service “diagnose and investigate” led to an innovative intervention to improve social cohesion, address violence, and promote physical activity.

Innovations in Reentry
Alameda County Public Health Department

Access to employment, housing, and healthcare resources for people reentering our communities from the criminal justice system can make a big impact on their health and the health of our communities. It can also reduce recidivism, or the likelihood that someone will return to the criminal justice system. Because supporting successful reentry is critical to the health of communities in Alameda County, the Alameda County Community Corrections Partnership Executive Committee provided approximately two million dollars to support innovative approaches to reentry in 2013.

Staff from the Alameda County Public Health Department’s Place Matters Criminal Justice team are managing the funding process and the launch of Innovations in Reentry. This is a pilot grant program designed to spur innovative approaches to addressing the needs of the adult reentry population and reducing recidivism in Alameda County. The nine inaugural grantees are implementing programs in vocational training and entrepreneurship, mentoring, fair chance employment, and disease management.

While grantees may focus on services or policy, this project is an opportunity to advance criminal justice policy goals and influence larger criminal justice-related funding decisions.

For additional information on funded programs, visit http://www.innovationsinreentry.org/Grantee-Profiles.


EpiCenter: California Injury Data Online. 2013. Assault/Homicide. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health. http://epicenter.cdph.ca.gov/ReportMenus/InjuryDataByTopic.aspx. Accessed February 2013.

Fowler PJ, Tompsett CJ, Braciszewski JM, Jacques-Tiura AJ, Baltes BB. 2009. Community Violence: A Meta-analysis on the Effect of exposure and Mental Health Outcomes of Children and Adolescents. Development and Psychopathology 21(1):227-259.

Takagi D, Ken’ichi I, Kawachi I. 2012. Neighborhood Social Capital and Crime Victimization: Comparison of Spatial Regression Analysis. Social Science & Medicine 75(10):1895-1902.