The year is off to a slow start in Oakland, and in this case that's a very good thing. The city is experiencing a drop in violent crimes the likes of which it hasn't seen for years. So reports the Chronicle, which notes that there have been seven killings this year — less than half of the 18 recorded at the same time last year (and the year before). And this news comes on the heels of a report on SF crime that shows property crimes here are now rising way faster than in Oakland, with violent crime staying totally flat in SF year over year.

The decreased murder rate, coupled with drops overall in violent crimes like rape and aggravated assault, are not being attributed to what some see as the rapid gentrification of the East Bay city, but rather an increased police force (now at 740 officers) and the willingness of the population to assist the police in solving crimes.

“Looking back, I don’t think we’ve ever started a year out like this,” Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent told the paper. “People are helping our investigations more and more. We get video from residents and business owners, and there’s more interest in lowering crime and a heavier police presence — all these things together are making a difference.”

Also getting credit is Oakland's Ceasefire program, "a data-driven violence-reduction strategy coordinating law enforcement, social services, and the community to reduce gang/group-related homicides and shootings."

“It’s very, very difficult to prevent the dispute that leads to that first shooting," Whent explained, "but knowing the groups, their leaders and where they hang out has helped us to stop the other ones. Reducing retaliation shootings is where we’ve been most successful.”

It's obviously only March, and seven murders is still too many, but the relatively calm start to the year has some holding out hope that the Oakland is headed in the right direction — at least when it comes to violent crime.

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