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   INVESTIGATING HOMICIDE

                  IN OAKLAND

 

             AN ANALYSIS OF HOMICIDE PATTERNS

          AND INVESTIGATIVE APPROACHES IN 1997

    THE INITIAL CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION

             A Report to the Oakland Police Department

                      by Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., J.D.
 

Copyright  © 1998 by Gini Graham Scott

 

 

  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

  INTRODUCTION

 

The Executive Summary is organized into the following four sections, as is the complete report:

·         Overview of Major Findings

·         The Major Factors Affecting Clearance Rates

·         The Differences Between Drug-Related and Non-Drug Related Cases

·         The Differences in Different Neighborhoods

 

OVERVIEW OF MAJOR FINDINGS

             Following are the major findings about homicide patterns and the investigative techniques used in solving them, based on analyzing the all homicides from 1997 in Oakland.  There were 96 homicide cases, after 11 cases considered to be justified homicides, accidents, and suicides were eliminated from analysis.
 

Clearance Patterns

Exactly half (50%) of the homicide cases were cleared as of May 1, 1998, 4 months after the last homicide in 1997, which was the cut-off date for collecting research data.

Most cases that were cleared were done so relatively quickly – about 40% within a few days to a week, 55% within 2 weeks, and 88% within 2 months – all by arrest.  Only a few cleared cases were cleared after this time, since most of the evidence or leads, if any, were available at or shortly after the initial investigation; as the case got older, less information was available.  In cases with a long clearance period, the break typically occurred because someone who knew what happened talked, sometimes because of an arrest in another case. 

The major factors contributing to the clearance of cases by a suspect’s arrest were:

·         the existence of witnesses to the crime or the escape, who could provide an ID or a good description of the suspect or suspects;

·         the existence of individuals with knowledge about the victim or suspect, who could provide a lead to a likely suspect;

·         the suspect’s failure to escape from the crime scene or elude an early capture, due to a serious injury or a good description of the suspect or the get-away vehicle given by witnesses.
 

Location and Setting of the Crime

The vast majority of homicides occurred in the flatlands in four major clusters or neighborhoods:

- West Oakland (mostly in Area I)

(bounded by Willow, Peralta, Webster, Oakland Avenue, 14th Street, and 40th Street)

- Central Oakland (mostly in Area II)

(bounded by 7th Avenue, 35th Avenue, San Leandro Street, and 580)

- Near East Oakland (the western portion of Area III)

(bounded by High Street, 72nd Avenue, 880, and 580)

- Far East Oakland (the eastern portion of Area III)

(bounded by 73rd Avenue, the San Leandro boundary, 880, and Foothill Blvd)

The greatest concentration of homicides was in West and Far East Oakland (32% and 27% of the cases respectively).  In terms of area, the greatest concentration was in Area 3 (46%) followed by Area 2 (31%); the least number of homicides was in Area 2 (23%).

Almost all homicides occurred in lower or lower-middle income neighborhoods (88%); and the majority in lower-income neighborhoods (46%).   Most commonly, these homicides occurred in residential areas (69%), rather than in areas of mixed residential or retail use, or in retail, commercial, or other types of areas.

The most common location for a homicide was on the street (66%), typically on a neighborhood street (43%), rather than on a main thoroughfare (23%).  The second most common location was inside or in front of the victim's residence (19%) and occasionally in or in front of a friend or relative's house.
 

The Time of the Crime

The number of homicides was spread fairly evenly throughout the year, though there were slightly more homicides in the Winter (from January to March) – when 31% of the cases occurred, compared to the other seasons, with 22-24% of the cases each.   The months with the greatest number of homicides were January and February.

The number of homicides was also spread throughout the week, though the busiest days were Monday and Saturday (18% of the cases); the smallest number occurred on Friday (9%) and Sunday (11%).

Most homicides occurred in the late afternoon or at night, between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m. (55% of the cases), with the peak period between 8 p.m. to midnight (33%).   The least number of homicides occurred between 4 a.m. and 12 noon – 5-7% of the cases in each four hour period.  In terms of Watch, the busiest time period was during Watch 3, with 43% of the homicides, followed by Watch 1, with 36% of the cases.  

Generally, homicides were reported very soon after they occurred – 80% were reported in less than 10 minutes; 67% in under 5 minutes.  Only a small percent were reported one or more days after the crime – 8%, generally after a friend or relative expressed concern about someone they hadn’t heard from in sometime or a dead body was discovered long after the killing.
 

Characteristics of the Crime and the Crime Scene

  

The Role of Drugs

 

Slightly over half of all cases (54%) were drug-related, and such cases were more difficult to clear.  Only 44% of these cases were cleared compared to 62% of the non-related cases.  A key reason is more of the drug-related cases were drive-by or street shootings leaving little evidence, and it was more difficult to get cooperation or information from witnesses in these cases.

 

 

Lighting Conditions

 

A majority of homicides occurred under conditions of low illumination – in 62% of the cases, generally because these were street shootings done at night. 

 

 

Type of Crime

 

The vast majority of homicides were due to a shooting (77%), commonly with a handgun (83%). 

The next most common type of homicide was a stabbing (11%), most commonly by a kitchen knife, when the type of weapon was known, though in almost half the cases this information wasn’t available, since the suspect left with the weapon.   Other causes for homicide, though less common, were beatings, bludgeonings, strangulation, or a fall or vehicle injury.

 

Most commonly, victims were felled by multiple shots or blows – in 60% of the cases where this information was known – and in 40% of the cases, the victim was shot or hit 6 or more times.

 

Compared to the more common shootings, the cases involving a stabbing were likely to be solved – generally because these were more likely to occur due to a conflict between individuals who knew each other.  Also, these incidents were more likely to have been observed by neighbors, family members, or acquaintances of the victim or suspect or both, resulting in an early identification of the suspect and a quick arrest.

 

 

Number of Victims

 

Only one victim was killed in almost all of the cases (97%), although in a small number of cases (14%), one or more other victims were wounded in the attack, though they survived.  Such crimes were either listed as GSW’s (gunshot wounds) or as a GSW and attempted murder (62% and 38% respectively).

Victim’s Time of Death

 

In most cases, by the time the police arrived at the scene, most typically within 10 minutes, the victim was already dead or near death.  Only 6% of the victims were still conscious or able to talk.   The vast majority of victims were either pronounced dead at the scene (22%) or were considered DOA but taken to the hospital just in case and pronounced dead there (43%).

 

 

The Motive and Reasons for the Homicide

 

Although the motive for the homicide is often unknown during the early stages of an investigation, where this information was known, the most common reasons for a homicide were an argument or fight (39%), a robbery (34%), or retaliation or jealousy (14% and 4% respectively).  Other motives included a gang fight, conflict over money, an auto theft that escalated into homicide, and a sex-related crime.

 

In general, the killing was provoked (64% of the time) in response to the situation (whether due to an argument, fight, gang rivalry, drug dispute, love triangle, or other situation), rather than being preplanned (26%). Only a few homicides were due to random killings (6%), and two were due to mistakes – killing the wrong person or an innocent bystander. 

 

 

Characteristics of Victims and Suspects

 

 

Sex and Race

 

 The homicide victims were predominantly male (85%), and so were the anticipated, named, or arrested suspects (92%).

 

The majority of victims were black (71%), and so were the anticipated, named or arrested suspects (77%).  The next most common group victimized was Hispanics (15%), and then whites (7%).  The groups with the fewest victims were the Asians (4%) and those from other groups.

 

The victims and suspects[1] for the vast majority of cases were from the same racial or ethnic group – 98% of the male victims were killed by male suspects, and 93% of the black victims were killed by black suspects.  However, in the small number of cases with a female victim (just 9 cases), only a little over half the suspects were males (56%); in almost half the cases, the killer was a female (44%).  

 

Such intragender and intraracial homicides were most typical when the killing was due to drugs or to an argument.  By contrast, in the case of robbery, only about half the victims and suspects were from the same group; such killings were more likely to cross gender or racial lines.

 

 

Number of Suspects

 

In the majority of cases a single victim was killed by a single suspect (58%).  The next most common situation was a single victim killed by two suspects – or by one suspect accompanied by an associate with him on the street or driving the car (31%).  Rarely were there three or more suspects (11%).

 

 

Relationship of Victims and Suspects

 

Where known, only a few victims and suspects were strangers to each other (29%).  In most cases, there was some kind of a relationship, including being co-workers or business associates (14%), having mutual friends or being social acquaintances (19%), being neighbors (10%), or being involved in a love relationship as a partner, former partner, or rival (15%).

 

 

Age of Victims and Suspects

 

A large percentage of the victims were in their 20s (41%); the next largest percentage from 30-39 (15%).  The victims tended to be younger in the street shootings, especially in the drug related cases, compared to other homicides; whereas the victims in the robberies tended to be older.

 

Where known, most of the suspects tended to be somewhat younger than the victims, with most suspects in their early 20s (36%) or late teens (22%).  The rest of the suspects were mostly between 16-17 (10%) or 25-29 (10%).

 

Very few victims or suspects were 60 or older; and those over 60 were more likely to be victims than suspects.  Commonly, in any given homicide, the victim tended to be older than the suspect where the suspect’s age was known or estimated by witnesses -- usually by 10 or more years.

 

Conducting the Investigation

 

The Initial Police Response

 

In almost all cases (90%), the police learned of a homicide by a call to dispatch by a witness or third party, such as a neighbor or friend with a phone.  The police rarely observed or heard a crime being committed, and were rarely contacted by a citizen on the street to report a crime. 

 

 

Response of the Suspect

 

Although in the vast majority of cases, homicides were reported within 10 minutes of their occurrence and the police arrived within a minute or two, by then, the suspect was usually gone – in 90% of the cases.

 

Although there was little information about how the suspect fled in about half the cases, where this information was known, about half the suspects fled on foot (28%), half by car (26%), a couple on a bike.  In the few cases, where the police pursued a suspect, about half fled by foot, half by vehicle.

 

 

Assisting the Victim

 

In most cases, the police could do little to help the victim, since the victim was already dead or near death when the police arrived.  However, because of police policies, in almost all cases, unless the victim clearly had no vital signs (ie: discovered after several days or had obviously fatal wounds), the victim was transported to the hospital by emergency personnel and death was pronounced in the hospital. 

 

 

The Nature and Scope of the Investigation

 

The size and scope of the investigation depended on a number of  factors, which increased the number of officers needed to process and control the crime scene – such as the number of victims, the number of potential eyewitnesses or informants, the size of the neighborhood canvas conducted for potential witnesses, the need for crowd control, and the possibility of finding a suspect in the area.
 

 

·         Size of the Investigation

 

An average homicide crime scene (42% of the cases) involved 7-9 officers, plus 1 or 2 sergeants at the scene or reviewing reports.  The smaller homicide crime scenes (26%) involved 5-6 officers, while the larger investigations (26%) involved 10 or more officers, with 13 or more in a few of the largest investigations (7%).

 

In most homicide cases, higher ranking officers – lieutenants and captains were not involved in the investigations.  Lieutenants only came to the scene in 18% and captains in 5% of the cases – generally they only were present in the larger or more high profile investigations.

 

 

·         Role of the Homicide Investigators

 

In virtually every homicide case – except for a few that weren’t initially considered homicides (such as a robbery where the victim later died from a fall) – homicide investigators were called to the scene  soon after the patrol officers arrived.  In almost all cases, there were two investigators. 

During the year, each investigators most commonly handled 6-7 cases as a lead investigator (33% of the cases), and 3-4 cases as a second investigator (31%).  Some investigators handled more or less cases, depending on when they joined or left the homicide section. 

 

With cases assigned on a rotating basis according to shift (8 a.m.-4 p.m., and 2 p.m-10 p.m.), investigators handled a mix of drug-related and non-drug related cases in the four different neighborhoods of Oakland.

 

 

·         Activities of Police at the Scene

 

The major activities of officers at the scene involved conducting a canvass for witnesses – usually by 1-3 officers (78% of the cases), recording license numbers – usually by 1 or 2 officers (39%), and talking to witnesses and obtaining written statements from those who had seen something (79%).

 

 

The Importance of Witnesses and Background Information

 

In a canvass, the police typically contacted at least 10 or more neighbors and other potential witnesses on the scene (86% of the cases); in half the cases, they spoke to 20 or more people.   However, most commonly people knew nothing or at most only heard shots; and those who then looked to see what was happening usually waited until the shooting was over. 

 

Thus, in most homicide cases, there were either no or very few witnesses, and those who saw anything usually could provide only a general description of the suspect’s sex, race, and approximate age.  While about half of these witnesses saw the actual crime being committed, half saw the suspect or suspects running away.   For example, in about half of the cases (49%) there were no eyewitnesses; and only 27% of the cases had at least one eyewitness who could provide a possible ID – and usually only a single eyewitness could do so.

 

The major source of information about the homicide was generally from neighbors who lived near the crime scene (27%), from a combination of neighbors, relatives, or friends of the victim (23%), or from relatives or friends (15%).  In many neighborhoods, especially in the lower and lower-middle income areas where most homicides occurred, neighbors were also social acquaintances or friends of the victim.  Such witnesses were especially important sources of information, since in almost all cases, the victim could not provide any information, since he or she was already dead or unconscious.  Only a few victims were conscious enough to talk to the police; and generally, those who did talk only provided a general description of the suspect or said nothing at all about him.

 

 

The Role of the Press

 

In most cases (85% of the time), the press was not present at the initial crime scene.  In the few cases where the press appeared, this was due to a few factors which made the crime seem more noteworthy -- such as a large number of victims, the unusual nature or brutality of the crime, a dramatic capture, or the prominence of a victim.

 

 

Evidence at the Crime Scene

 

In general, relatively little evidence was left at most crime scenes, contributing to the difficulty of solving many cases. 

 

In about half the cases, there was no evidence (18%) or the only evidence was gunpowder, bullets, or casings from a shooting (34%).  A reason for this lack of evidence is that most homicides involved shootings on the street or sidewalk and the suspect quickly fled.

 

Where there was other evidence besides the results of gunfire, it differed greatly from scene to scene.  Weapons were retrieved in 11% of the cases, and the other cases had a wide mix of other evidence, including drugs, blood, video recordings, fingerprints, clothing and property, a vehicle license plate number, or a pager left at the scene.

 

                   

Clearing and Solving the Case

 

The investigators rated over half the cases (60%) of only poor or fair solvability after the initial investigation, because there was little or no information available.  Subsequently, they were generally unable to clear these cases because of a lack of evidence and information.

 

Such cases had a lack of evidence and information, because of these three major factors:

·         The suspect was usually already gone in a vehicle or on foot by the time the police were notified of the crime and appeared on the scene.

·         There were usually few or no eyewitnesses to most homicides, and few witnesses were able to provide a solid ID.

·         Generally, witnesses to the crime or escape could only provide a general description; typically this was limited to providing a rough description of the suspect's race, age, sex, and clothing.

In general, the cases considered highly solvable (rated Very Good or Excellent) were ones where:

·         there was one or more good eyewitnesses (only available in 38% of the cases)

·         there were other leads or evidence, including knowledge of a likely suspect (33% of the cases), of the weapon used (11%), and a named suspect in custody (11%). 

Typically, the cases the investigators considered highly solvable were the ones they subsequently cleared.   Such cases were more likely to be solved because:

·         There was more information available.

·         The investigators prioritized working on such cases, because they seemed more solvable as a result of this greater information.

 

THE MAJOR FACTORS AFFECTING
 CLEARANCE RATES

  

            Since 50% of the 1997 homicide cases were cleared and 50% were not, as of the May 1, 1998 cut-off date for collecting research data, what are the major factors that contributed to these differences?   Following are the major findings from comparing the percent of cases cleared under different circumstances.

 

 

Location and Setting

 

Most of the neighborhoods, areas, and districts were similar in the percentage of crimes cleared, with one exception.  The percent cleared was slightly higher in the West, in Area 1, and in District 1 compared to other areas.  (It was 61% in the West, 60% in Area 1, and 68% in District 1 compared to 43-47% in other neighborhoods, Areas, and Districts).

 

The socio-economic level of an area had little difference in the clearance results – almost all averaged from 45-55%.  The one exception was that the one homicide in an upper-middle income area was cleared, although one cannot draw any conclusions from one case.

 

Cases in retail and commercial areas were somewhat less likely to be cleared (38%) than in residential or mixed residential and retail areas (48-52%).    As for location, the highest clearance rates were for homicides in a victim’s residence (61%) or store (75%); the rate was lowest for those in another residence (29%) or on a main or neighborhood street (45-49%).

 

 

Time of the Crime

 

Clearance patterns varied only slightly from season to season, though the homicides in summer were more likely to be cleared (68%); those in the spring least likely (41%).   There was only slight variation in the clearance patterns of homicides which occurred on different days, though the clearance rates were highest for those which occurred on Sunday and Monday (59-64%).

 

For the most part, the time of occurrence had little effect – with one major exception.  The smaller number of homicides which occurred between 12 noon and 4 p.m. were much more likely to be cleared (100% of them), compared to only 43-45% of the homicides at other times of the day.  Perhaps this is because in the middle of the day, these homicides were more likely to be seen by observer, and it was harder for the suspect to escape.

 


Drug Relationship

 

Cases involving drugs were harder to clear.   Only 44% of the these homicides were cleared compared to 62% of the non-related cases.   A key reason is these crimes were more likely to be the harder to solve drive-by and street shootings, and there were fewer witnesses or they were unwilling to talk.

 

 

Lighting at the Time of the Crime

 

Lighting seemed to be a major contributing factor in whether a homicide was cleared, in that there was a direct relationship between the amount of lighting and the clearance rate.  The percent cleared was highest with high (67%) or medium (64%) illumination; lowest with low (39%) or very low (33%) lighting.

 

 

Type of Crime and Means or Weapon

 

The type of crime and means or weapon was another major factor affecting the clearance rate.  Shootings -- the most common type of homicide – were least likely to be cleared (only 47%), whereas the less common stabbings and beatings were much more likely to be cleared (64% and 100% respectively.   A reason for this is that the shootings typically occurred at night, were observed by few witnesses, and left little evidence.  By contrast, the stabbings and beatings tended to arise out of arguments or fights between people who knew each other, were often observed by others, and left more evidence, including blood, weapons, and prints, at the scene.

 

 

Characteristics of Victims and Suspects

 

Another factor affecting the clearance rate was whether the victim or suspect was a female.  The cases with female victims or suspects were much more likely to be cleared – 71% and 100% respectively, compared to only about half the cases with male victims or suspects.   A key reason is that females were more likely to be killed or be the killers in non-drug related homicides due to personal disputes between parties known to each other; and female killers were more likely than males to use a knife as a weapon.

 

In the case of race, the cases involving white and other victims were somewhat more likely to be cleared (62% and 75% respectively); those involving Asian victims, least likely (33%).   The patterns for anticipated suspects closely paralleled those for victims, since most homicides tended to involve victims and suspects of the same race.

 

There was wide variation in the percent of cases cleared for different age groups, showing no particular pattern.

 

 

Scope of the Investigation and the Press

 

While the size of the initial investigation showed no direct relationship to clearance patterns, in the few cases where the press was on the scene, the clearance rate was slightly higher than when it wasn’t there – 62% compared to 48%.

 

 

The Importance of Witnesses

 

A key factor in clearing cases was finding witnesses, particularly good eyewitnesses.  The more witnesses, the higher the clearance rate.  With zero total witnesses, the clearance rate was only 26%; with 1 witness, it was 38%; with 2-4 witnesses 48-62%; and with 5 or more 75-85%.   And with more eyewitnesses, the increases were even more dramatic.  With no eyewitnesses, the clearance rate was only 36%; with 1-4 eyewitnesses, 50-65%; and with 5 or more eyewitnesses, it zoomed to 100%.

 

Having such witnesses, and particularly eyewitnesses, provide information was especially critical to clearing cases, because they provide identifications and leads for further investigation.  And this information is especially important in the cases where the evidence doesn’t lead directly to a suspect (such as in the case where the only evidence is gunpowder, bullets, or casings).  In such cases, even a print or blood evidence may not be useful until the police have pinpointed a suspect, usually with the aid of witnesses, to check for a match.

 

 

Identifying and Arresting Suspects

 

Once the investigators had information about a suspect, especially the name of a suspect, they were able to clear most of their cases – from 83-100% of the cases with 1 to 3 named suspects, compared to only 37% where they had no one named.  And if a suspect was in custody, 100% of these cases were cleared.

 

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DRUG-RELATED

AND NON-DRUG RELATED CASES
 


          Slightly over half (54%) of the homicides in Oakland in 1997 were drug-related; slightly less than half (44%) non-related; the remainder were unknown.  A comparison between the drug-related and non-related cases shows the following differences:

 

 

Location

 

The largest concentration of drug-related homicides was in Far East Oakland where 85% of the homicides were drug related, compared to 44-45% in Near East and West Oakland, and 38% in Central Oakland. 

 

In terms of Area, the largest percentage (58%) of drug-related homicides occurred in Area 3, which includes Far East Oakland; a much smaller percentage were in Area 1 (27%) and Area 2 (15%).  Or viewed another way, Area 3 not only had a greater percentage of all homicides (46%), but a much higher percentage were drug related than anywhere in the city – 68%.  By contrast, Area 2, with the smallest number of homicides (only 22%) had the smallest percentage of drug-related homicides – only 36%.  In Area 1, with 31% of the city’s homicides, almost half of the cases were drug related (47%), half were not (50%).

 

 

Characteristics of Location and Setting

 

The drug-related homicides were more heavily concentrated in the lower-income areas than non-related cases – 58% of the drug-related cases occurred there compared to 32% of the non-related cases.  Conversely, the non-related cases were more likely to occur in lower-middle or middle income areas – 66% of the cases, compared to 43% of the drug-related cases.

 

There was a higher percentage of drug-related cases in residential areas (75%) compared to non-drug related cases (58%).   A higher percentage of non-related cases occurred in retail and commercial areas (15%) than drug-related cases (4%).  Drug-related cases were also much more likely to occur on neighborhood streets than non-related cases – 50% versus 28% respectively.  By contrast, non-related cases were slightly more likely to occur on main streets or the victim’s residence, in part because these were more likely to be robberies.

 

 

Time of the Crime

 

Both the drug-related and non-related homicides were spread throughout the seasons, though the drug-related cases tended to be somewhat more concentrated in the Winter and Spring (62% of the cases) than the non-related cases (48%).

 

Both types of cases were also spread throughout the week, though there was a slightly higher concentration of drug-related cases on Monday and Saturday (19% and 23% of such cases respectively); while the not-related cases were most common on Tuesday and Wednesday (20% each).

 

There was little difference between the two types of cases in when they occurred – the peak hours for both were between 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.  However, in terms of Watches, there was a significant difference in that the non-related cases were more evenly distributed from Watch to Watch (with 28% to 38% of the cases occurring during each Watch.  By contrast, while the drug-related cases were most likely to occur during Watch 3 (48% of the cases) followed by Watch 1 (37% of the cases); the smallest number occurred during Watch 2 (only 15% of the cases).

 

 

Lighting at the Time of the Crime

 

A much higher percentage of the drug-related homicides occurred under conditions of low-lighting (65%) than did non-related homicides (45%).  This lower illumination contributed to the greater difficulty in clearing such cases, since it was harder for witnesses to see what happened or provide a good description of the suspect or suspects.

 

 

Type of Crime and Means or Weapon

 

Virtually all of the drug-related homicides were shootings (94%), many of them drive-by or street shootings late at night with few or no witnesses and little evidence, contributing to the difficulty of solving them.  By comparison, only a little over half (55%) of the non-related homicides were shootings.   Many more of them were stabbings (20%) than were drug-related cases (only 4%).

 

 

Characteristics of Victims and Suspects

 

In the drug-related cases, the victims were almost entirely males (96%) compared to a much smaller percentage in the non-related cases (70%).  By contrast, most of the female victims were killed in non-drug-related homicides – they comprised 30% of the victims in the non-related cases versus only 4% in the drug-related cases.

The drug-related cases also had a higher percentage of black victims than non-related cases – 85% compared to 52% respectively.  A major reason for this difference is the greater number of white, Asian, and other victims in the non-related cases, and the greater impact of drugs in the black community, resulting in a greater percentage of black victims.

 

The age of the victims tended to be somewhat younger in the drug-related cases.  In these homicides, about half the victims (52%) were 21-29, and 27% were from 30-49; whereas in the non-related homicides, only 22% were 21-29, and 38% were 30-49.

 

 

Scope of the Investigation and Role of the Press

 

 While the size of the investigation varied widely for both drug-related and non-related homicides due to various factors, including the number of victims, witnesses, and amount of evidence, the drug-related cases tended to involve somewhat larger investigations.  A smaller percentage of drug-related cases were small-scale investigations compared to the non-related cases (17% versus 38%) and a greater percentage were of average size (52% versus 28%).

 

Both the drug-related and non-related cases were similar in that the vast majority had no initial press coverage.  However, the press was slightly more likely to cover the non-drug related cases (18%) than the drug-related cases (8%).

 

 

The Importance of Witnesses

 

Although there were no eyewitnesses in about half of both types of cases, there were slightly more eyewitnesses in non-related cases (53%) compared to 44% in drug-related cases).  While the percentage of “good” eyewitnesses as judged by the investigators was even lower in both types of cases, the percentage was slightly higher in the non-related cases (42% versus 37%).

 

 

Identifying and Arresting Suspects and Solving the Case

 

While there was little difference in the response of the suspects in both types of cases (88-90% were already gone when the police arrived), the police were more likely to have a named suspect in the non-related cases (37%) than the drug-related cases (only 21%), contributing to the greater clearance rate for such homicides.  The police were also more likely to have a suspect in custody in the non-related cases (20% of the cases) compared to the drug-related cases (only 8%).

 

Due to the greater number of witnesses and greater likelihood of having information about a suspect or having a suspect in custody in the non-related cases, investigators considered them more solvable. They rated 45% of these cases of “good to excellent” solvability versus 25% of the drug-related cases.
 

 

DIFFERENCES IN DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOODS

           
             Most of the 1997 homicides occurred in West (32%) and Far East Oakland (27%), with the lowest number in Central (22%) and Near East (19%) Oakland.  As previously noted, the percent of drug-related homicides was much higher in Far East Oakland (85%) than in other neighborhoods (38-45%).  These are the other major differences in different neighborhoods.

 

 

Clearance Patterns

 

While West Oakland had the most homicides, it also had the highest clearance rate (61%), compared to 43-46% in other neighborhoods.

 

 

Location and Setting

 

Because of differing socio-economic characteristics in the neighborhoods, more of the homicides in West and Far East Oakland, which had the most homicides in the city, occurred in lower income areas (55-58%) compared to Central and Near East Oakland (28-33%).

 

The greatest number of homicides in purely residential areas occurred in Near East Oakland (89%), followed by Central and Far East Oakland (69%-71%).  West Oakland had the lowest number of homicides in residential areas (55%), with far more in mixed residential and retail or commercial areas than in other parts of Oakland.

 

 

Time of the Crime

 

In all neighborhoods, the occurrence of homicides was distributed throughout the year, with some minor variations from neighborhood to neighborhood. 

 

The neighborhoods were similar in the times when homicides occurred.  In all areas, a high percentage of homicides occurred between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.  A majority of homicides (55-59%) occurred at these times in West, Near East and Far East Oakland; whereas only 41% did in Central Oakland. 

 

In all neighborhoods, the vast majority of the homicides were reported within 10 minutes, although the percentage was higher in West and Far East Oakland (84%) compared to 72% in Central and Near East Oakland.

 

 

 

Characteristics of the Crime and the Victims

 

While the most common type of homicide was a shooting in all parts of Oakland, there was a higher percentage of shootings in Far East Oakland compared to other areas – 96% versus 67-72% in other areas.  A key reason for this higher rate is the greater number of drug-related shootings in East Oakland.

 

There was also a higher percentage of male victims in Far East Oakland than elsewhere – 96& versus 67-87%, again due to the greater number of drug-related shootings, which involved almost all male victims.  By contrast, there was a higher percentage of female victims in Near East Oakland (33% versus 13-14% in West and Central Oakland; 4% in the Far East).

 

Reflecting demographic patterns, while most victims were black throughout Oakland, the highest percentage of black victims was in Far East Oakland (88%), followed by West and Near East Oakland (71-78%), with the least in Central Oakland (43%).  The largest percent of Hispanic victims, the second major group of victims, was in Central Oakland (29%) compared to only 5-13% in other areas of the city.  The highest percentage of the smaller number of white victims was in Near East Oakland; the highest percentage of Asian victims in West and Central Oakland.

 

 

Scope of the Investigation and the Role of the Press

 

The investigations were somewhat larger in West and Central Oakland compared to Near East and Far East Oakland, due to the major factors affecting the scope of the investigation – such as the type of crime and number of victims or witnesses.  While 37-42% of the investigations in West and Central Oakland might be considered large or very large, only 17-31% of the investigations in the Near East and Far East Oakland were in this category.

 

There was little difference in the response of the press in all neighborhoods.  The press was almost never on the scene for most homicides anywhere (83-88%).
 

 

The Role of Witnesses

 

In general, the most and best eyewitnesses were in West and Far East Oakland, which may contribute to the somewhat higher clearance rate in West Oakland (61% compared to 43-46% elsewhere.  In West and Far East Oakland, investigators felt they had good eyewitness testimony in 42-50% of the cases, compared to only 24-28% in Central and Near East Oakland.

 

 

Identifying and Arresting Suspects and Solving the Case

 

While suspects were taken into custody in only a small percentage of the cases in all neighborhoods, a much lower percentage were taken into custody in East Oakland (4%) compared to the other areas (11-19%).  In rating solvability, investigators rated the cases in West Oakland, which had the highest clearance rate, as having the greatest solvability.  They rated 42% of these cases very good to excellent, compared to 23-34% in other areas.

[1] The term “suspect” is used to refer to all anticipated, named, or arrested suspects, which includes suspects described by witnesses but not identified or arrested.

 

The Executive Summary is available for distribution to professionals in the criminal justice and other fields and to members of the media with full crediting of the source of this report.   To obtain a copy of the full report, contact Gini Graham Scott at (510) 339-1625.
 

  

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