Connecting the Dots ~ Fred Allebach

Fred Allebach Fred Allebach is a member of the City of Sonoma’s Community Services and Environmental Commission, and an Advisory Committee member of the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Fred is maintenance chair of the Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards and an active member of the Sonoma Valley Housing Group and Transition Sonoma Valley. As well, Fred has a KSVY radio show on Sunday nights at 8:PM, participates in the Sonoma Valley Action Coalition for immigration issues, and with the Sonoma Climate Coalition.


Sonoma crime rate claims need substantiation

Posted on December 22, 2018 by Fred Allebach

At the 12/17/18 city council meeting, an opening public comment was made that “crime is up.” “Increasing crime” has also been recently mentioned by Chris Petlock on FB as a salient local issue. Crime is up compared to what? 

Crime websites, what municipality? 

According to Best and other crime stats websites, Sonoma is well below national crime rates.

Area Vibes 2016 website crime rate 

“The crime data reveals that the overall Sonoma, CA crime rates are 34% lower than in comparison to the California mean and are 29% lower than the nation’s mean. In regards to violent offenses, Sonoma, CA has a rate that is 38% lower than the California average; compared to the United States, it is 27% lower than. Looking at crimes involving property, Sonoma, CA is 33% lower than its state’s mean, and 29% lower than the country’s average.”

Crime is down

Here is an 11/17 general crime rate piece in the Press Democrat. This report shows that a year ago, Santa Rosa was experiencing a major drop in crime rate. Quote from the article, “Property crimes in Santa Rosa plummeted by 43.2 percent from 2016 to 2015, far outpacing the nationwide drop of 1.3 percent… For Santa Rosa Police Lt. Mike Lazzarini, who oversees the city’s crime investigations units, the ebb and flow of crime statistics year-to-year don’t always give context or show the realities on the ground…. Lazzarini said given the relatively low number of crimes in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County cities means a weekend crime spree by a few people can skew statistics for a year…. This can also be seen in the way statistics are crunched… According to crime stats, Cotati was the most dangerous of the nine cities in Sonoma County with a violent crime rate of nearly 495 incidents per 100,000 people, 128 percent of the national average… The problem is Cotati has a population of just under 7,500 and had zero reported homicides and 37 incidents of violent crime for 2016. To inflate the numbers to a uniform rate per 100,000 skews the data. In 2016, Cotati had less than one incident of violent crime per week.”

This statistical skewing is the exact same reason why a relatively small number of super wealthy people run up and inflate the county Area Median Income. The point: crime data can manipulated to make it seem crime is up when it is not. This is when you look at the interests of the people making the claim; why would people say crime is up when it is not? 

Sheriff’s Office website

The county Sheriff’s website, is the prime source for local crime info. LexisNexis is the private company that aggregates the data. But, the Sheriff’s site has no category for crime rate. It is the alternative, private websites that give all manner of varying crime rate stats. 

What the Sheriff’s LexisNexis site does have is a lot of options to choose date range, municipal area and type of crime etc. If you proscribe an area and then only check X number of crimes, you could easily come up with a different rate and figures than someone else who sliced the pie differently. This is why with the private crime websites, you can likely find one that tells you want you want to hear. This points to common shortcomings and issues of bias when people cite statistics. The population you choose, or that is chosen for you, is the bias. 

The Sun has a “live crime map”, from the same LexisNexis source. Note, this website map conflates Sonoma and the Springs. Using this map, it may not be possible to tell if “crime is up” in Sonoma, because the map does not separate the Springs out.

The statement “crime is up” or “increasing” is pretty well meaningless unless backed up by a transparent statement of measuring methodology.  

What about white collar crime?

Local crime stats also don’t include white collar crime. For example, the Sonoma Valley Bank corruption scandal had a large, rippling consequence for many local people’s savings. This was a lot of money lost to crime! This incident far outstrips petty crime in terms of overall effect. 

The Trump factor and “the war on crime”

Under Trump, immigrants are vilified and associated with crime even though the stats show the opposite. Trump and company also vilify the poor, brown-skinned, big city dwellers, and sexually diverse. 

The “the war on crime” plays in to Trump’s agitation of his base. Crime is racial dog whistle.

Yet, war on crime policy has ended up being so bad, with the US ending up with 25% of the world’s prisoners, it is one of the few things today’s Democrats and Republicans can agree on trying to address across the aisle. 

“Crime” a potentially divisive issue in Sonoma

To an extent, the war on crime, fear of immigrants, the poor, and people of color, has bled into Sonoma. This was manifested in the SAHA affordable housing project on Broadway process, where fears of “crime” were used as a reason to reduce density and build less affordable housing.  

Nationally we see a calculated divisive strategy to vilify the other guys. This correlates with a rise in hate crimes and a deterioration of civil discourse. This Trump strategy is to turn one group against the other. We saw a similar strategy in the last Sonoma city council election. A “crime is up” meme has all the red flags of such a continuing strategy. 

The recent city council meeting and FB comments that “crime is up” and “increasing” could be the tip of the iceberg of a plan to attack the growing groundswell for affordable housing, by conflating the need to house Area Median Income workers with a potential increase in crime. It could also be one of a number of calculated wedge issues used to attack the new city council. 

Chief Orlando, tell us what is up

After looking into the question of whether local crime in Sonoma is going up: the Sonoma police chief will have to write an article to explain local crime rate, and what boxes and date parameters he is checking on the Sheriff’s LexisNexis crime data website to reach his conclusions. This study will have to separate Sonoma and the Springs, so we know what jurisdiction is what. 


One thought on “Sonoma crime rate claims need substantiation

  1. Yeah…. I’ve heard about people who go through garbage cans looking for receipts to get credit card information. I had an old friend who use to do this down in Sausalito. He was totally out of control. Man O Man – this cat has quite a history of looking for trouble… I think it was related to his serious drinking problems but I don’t know if he still does it or not…. Crime is on the rise for sure !!

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