Does Retail make Emerville a Target for Criminals?

3 mins read

Retail has been a blessing for Emeryville’s tax base … but at what cost? A recent 2011  FBI uniform crime report lists Emeryville as having the Bay Area’s highest violent crime rate ahead of cities with violent crime reputations like Oakland and Richmond. In fact, my own experience with crime led me to pursue this blog. Is this label justified or are these numbers misleading? The issue is a complicated one for sure. Perhaps the fact that people actually report “smaller” crimes has bloated this figure (there are some areas where people don’t even bother reporting crimes because they know that no action will be taken)? I hope that by asking this question it leads to a larger discusion of the safety within our community in what appears to be a growing problem. Are there other explanations for this unfavorable ranking? What do you think?

I conducted a ten question email interview with Emeryville Police Department Crime Analyst Adrienne Robinson on how the EPD views this and what we as residents can do:

1). First off, are there any variables that would account for this sudden “spike” in crime (i.e. economic downturn or new activity drawing in criminals)?
There appears to be a direct correlation between the increase in crime and the release of California prisoners under the AB109 Realignment.

2). Do you think these numbers are objective or is there another explanation that would account for Emeryville having the highest violent crime rate?
The numbers do not reflect an accurate explanation as to the safety of our City. Our residential population is low, representing 10,199. The FBI compares all city crime rates using city populations of 100,000. Statically, the number of crimes divided into our small population, and then multiplied by 100,000 inflates our crime rate. However, if we looked at the same numbers and calculated them using the unit of per 1000 residents, our violent crime rate would be 20. Using the same unit of per 1000 residents, our overall crime rate would be 144. Emeryville has shifted from an industrial town to an edge city. Our daytime population consists of approximately 40,000+ people who frequent the city for work, education, business, shopping, entertainment, etc. A good percentage of our city consists of retail shops, such as the Public Market, Bay Street Mall, East Bay Bridge Center, and the Promenade, which can be hotspot areas. Hotspot areas are a small geographic area that contains a disproportionate number of crimes.

3). It appears “Aggravated assault” accounts for the largest percentage of these violent crimes (133 of 208 total violent crimes). Can you elaborate/distinguish how this stat applies to the crimes perpetrated in Emeryville?
We capture all reported assaults. Therefore, the number 133 includes simple and aggravated assaults. 35 of those assaults are aggravated and the other 98 are simple assaults, which includes reports of mutual combat, or someone bumping, pushing or spitting on a person, etc. Many other law enforcement agencies do not document these types of assaults. Many of our robberies consist of shoplifting or petty thefts in which the suspect forcibly resists being detained by store security while in possession of the loss. Additionally, we have classified as robberies crimes in which the only force perpetrated was to grab the loss from the victim’s hand as the suspects are running past.

4). Do you think having high-density retail and perceived “affluence” make Emeryville a target for criminals?
As explained above, many of our violent crimes are simply property crimes in which the suspect uses a small amount of force. The high-density retail is an attractive target, but the intent of the criminal is not to commit a violent crime but to attack property.

5). Are there any stats that support where the perpetrators of these crimes are from (Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, etc.) or are they locals?
No, this would require a cumbersome manual search. From memory of reading reports, the majority of perpetrators do not reside in Emeryville.

6). Are there any Stats that support where the victims of these crimes are from (Locals or Non-Locals)?
No, this would require a cumbersome manual search.

7). Are there any “Hot Spots” that residents should be particularly cautious around?
During the summer months through October, we had a pattern of iPhone robberies/thefts in which the suspect would run past the victim and snatch the phone from the victim’s hand. The Public Market, the Bay Street Mall and the Powell Street Plaza were hotspot areas. A community alert bulletin was published on our Facebook page, and distributed to the Security Coalition. This faddish crime has occurred in other cities throughout the Bay Area, therefore it is important that people are aware of their surroundings in any city.

8). Does this change the EPD’s approach to fighting crime and has the FBI or other law-enforcement approached the EPD about any assistance?
No, because of the population factor in the determination of these statistics, Emeryville always ranks high. The City is very safe. Several years ago, we were ranked the homicide capital after having three homicides during one year.

9). Have budgetary constraints impeded the EPD’s ability to fight crime and keep Emeryville safe and is there any opportunity to add staff in 2013?

10). What can we as residents do to help reduce these stats and prevent Emeryville from being labeled as “The Bay Area’s most Violent City”.
It is important that people are aware of their surroundings especially as we move in to the holiday season. People should carry themselves with confidence and alertness. They should avoid using cell phones, iPods, and headphones in public. These devices limit your awareness. If a person becomes a robbery victim, they should not take action that will jeopardize the safety of themselves or others. They should comply with the suspect to speed his departure. Items can be replaced, but the citizen cannot. Additionally, it is important that people do not leave valuables in plain view in their vehicles.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. This is a very cool map and a useful interview. Zoom in on the map and you can see that Park Ave. and west Emeryville are islands of peace.

      • Good catch. This has been updated. The Blotter image had little to do with the actual point of the article but I appreciate setting the record straight. I have added this to the corrections page.

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