San Leandro has posted an 18 percent drop in crime through the first six months of this year. The numbers mimic a pleasantly surprising trend across many U.S. cities who have reported a drop in crime despite the long-held belief offenses rise during hard economic times.

“We’re all scratching our heads a bit on this,” said Lt. Cmdr. Pete Ballew of the San Leandro criminal investigation division.

According to the San Leandro Police Department incidents of robbery have dropped 46 percent from the same time last year. Burglary is down 30 percent. “I’m proud of our police department,” said San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos, “When the economy tails off usually you have a rise in crime–especially robbery–but this has not been the case. I hope it stays that way.”

Crime Totals Comparison between
first six months of 2008 and 2009

  • Murder 0%
  • Rape 22%
  • Robbery -46%
  • Aggravated Assault 14%
  • Simple Assault -1%
  • Burglary -30%
  • Larceny -14%
  • Auto Theft -16%
  • Arson -25%

Ballew believes one reason is more people are at home longer periods of time due to higher rates of unemployment, more job hunters settling for part-time work and higher numbers of people working from home than ever before. He also believes the proliferation of cell phones allows law enforcement access to real-time information they did not have even five years ago.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you our cops are doing a good job,” Ballew said, “There’s an informal network of criminals who know if you commit crimes in San Leandro, you’ll get caught.”

Santos used the opportunity to argue the need to keep the police force fully staffed in the future despite recent grabs for the city’s coffers by Sacramento. “We need to make sure the [police] department is staffed properly so that we can keep these crime rates where they are,” he said.

Critics of crime figures generated by law enforcement charge they are often times under reported or misstated to enhance the prestige of the department or score political brownie points for superiors, but similar statistics have been reported in some of the nation’s largest cities including New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and across the Bay in San Francisco.