When Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley warned that an In-N-Out Burger restaurant proposed for the city of Alameda would attract robbers from Oakland, her argument contained one major flaw.
The county's top law enforcement official dramatically overstated the robbery crisis gripping Oakland.
Speaking last month as a city of Alameda resident who does "know something about public safety," O'Malley cautioned planning board members that Oakland's high crime rate impacts "the robberies in every city" that surrounds it.
"So far in the first five months of this year we've had almost 5,000 robberies in the city of Oakland," she told them. "That's a 67 percent increase from last year."
Oakland does have the nation's highest robbery rate, but the crime isn't nearly as frequent as O'Malley stated.
According to police figures, the city recorded 1,995 robberies through June 2 -- a 28 percent increase from 2012. Police also said the In-N-Out Burger in East Oakland hasn't been a crime problem.
O'Malley, through her spokeswoman Teresa Drenick, acknowledged having messed up the facts at the July 22 hearing.
Drenick said O'Malley intended to say Oakland was on track to record almost 5,000 robberies for all of 2013 if current trends continued. The city racked up 4,338 robberies last year -- the most since 1993.
As for the 67 percent increase, Drenick said O'Malley was comparing this year's figures to those from two years ago -- not last year's as O'Malley had told the planning board.
"The fundamental bottom line is she was urging the planning (board) to pay attention to potential crime issues," Drenick said.
The planning board, despite opposition from O'Malley and several other residents, approved drive-through windows and extended hours for the fast-food chain, which is helping anchor a 2.3-acre development just across a tunnel that connects Alameda to Oakland.
O'Malley is hardly the first public official to misstate the facts about Oakland's crime problem.
Last year, Mayor Jean Quan crafted a crime-fighting strategy based on the premise that 90 percent of shootings and homicides in the city were concentrated in just 100 square blocks. The "100-Block" plan got mothballed after a nonprofit showed that the city's 100 most dangerous blocks only accounted for 17 percent of shootings and homicides.
Earlier this year, former police Chief Howard Jordan incorrectly stated that just two street gangs were responsible for 90 percent of Oakland's shootings, robberies and homicides.
Frank Castro, who sits on Oakland's Community Policing Advisory Board and chairs a neighborhood crime prevention council, said he is frustrated by the errors and especially upset with O'Malley for misstating the facts in her fight against a retail project.
"I find it unconscionable that she was using the power of her office and her title to make the planning (board) believe something that wasn't true," he said.
Bob Stern, the former president for the Center for Governmental Studies, said O'Malley had every right to speak out against the project. "But as an elected law enforcement official," he said, "she has a larger responsibility than the average citizen to make sure that she is citing the correct facts."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.