OAKLAND — Oakland had the third-highest crime rate in the United States in 2008, according to a publishing company's annual report on crime in American cities.
CQ Press' widely followed but controversial rankings were released over the weekend and put Oakland among the country's five highest-crime cities for the third consecutive year. Richmond ranked No. 14.
Oakland moved up two spots after ranking No. 5 in last year's report and No. 4 in 2007. Each year's report is based on crime data from the previous calendar year.
Oakland's No. 3 ranking came despite a dip in reports of serious crime by about 3 percent from 2007 to 2008.
What is not reflected in the report is that Oakland is experiencing a more significant drop in crime this year. As of Nov. 11, reports of serious crime were down 13 percent in 2009 compared with the same point in 2008, while homicides had dropped 17 percent.
Even with the decline, Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts, who began Oct. 19, repeatedly has called the city's crime rate "unacceptable" and even "an outrage."
"The level of carnage that takes place in this city to me is abhorrent, is an outrage in a city of this size," he said last week. "My passion is trying to stop the level of murders, homicides and deaths in this city if I possibly can."
Mayor Ron Dellums said in a statement that the city "is making progress in bringing peace to our streets" — noting that violence is down this year after he set a goal of reducing crime by at least 10 percent.
The mayor also questioned the credibility of the report. The CQ Press rankings regularly draw fire from mayors and law-enforcement officials nationwide. The U.S. Conference of Mayors ripped the report again this year, calling it "misleading and a disservice to the public."
The company relies on FBI statistics, and in 2007 the FBI attacked the report, saying the "rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state or region."
In a statement, CQ Press acknowledged the controversy but suggested that criticisms are "largely based on the fact that there are reasons for the differences in crime rates, not that the rates are incompatible."
The rankings are calculated using six categories of crime: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and vehicle theft.
"Annual rankings not only allow for comparisons among different states and cities, but also enable leaders to track their communities' crime trends from one year to the next," CQ Press said in its statement.
Topping this year's list as the highest crime city was Camden, N.J. After Camden came St. Louis; Oakland; Detroit; and Flint, Mich.
Richmond ranked No. 9 in each of the past two years before dropping to No. 14.
"Last year, crime was down," said Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus. "And this year, though our homicide total has increased, our total crime is actually down 11 percent."
Karl Fischer contributed to this story. To view the report, go to www.cqpress.com. Reach Kelly Rayburn at 510-208-6435.