SAN JOSE -- Violent crime rose in many Bay Area cities and across California in 2012, but the numbers of killings and robberies were below rates seen in recent years, according to FBI statistics released Monday.
The state experienced a 3.3 percent increase in violent crime, while the United States as a whole recorded an .07 percent uptick from 2011. For California, it was the biggest increase in assault, rape, homicide and robbery in at least 20 years, according to the 2012 Department of Justice Uniform Crime Report.
The increase was not surprising after a bloody 2012 in many of the Bay Area's biggest cities, including Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, which had 46 homicides, the largest tally recorded there in two decades. It was the second year of a creeping increases in homicides for the Bay Area's biggest cities.
On top of the human toll came a surge of burglaries and car thefts that pushed double-digit increases in Bay Area property crimes. According to the FBI report, property crimes were down everywhere in the U.S. except the West, which recorded a 5.2 percent hike. This newspaper reported the crime spike was being driven by several factors, including budget cuts, which had led to police focusing on violent offenses.
Not everyone considered the FBI report an indication violent crime was poised to surge after decades of steady decline in California. Barry Krisberg, senior fellow at UC Berkeley law school, said the FBI data doesn't mean much. He noted factors such as a law enforcement agency dropping out of the voluntary reporting system or a reworked definition of a crime can skew statistics.
"People are trying to make much out of a one-year trend," Krisberg said. "But there are so many problems in regards to the data."
Violent crime rates, which are measured per 100,000 inhabitants, were up in 34 of 64 Bay Area cities between 2011 and 2012. San Jose's rate climbed from 335 to 363; Oakland 1.682 to 1,993; San Mateo 250 to 262; Daly City 179 to 209; San Francisco 659 to 704; Walnut Creek 106 to 127 and Pittsburg 226 to 234.
Violent crime was down in Palo Alto from 98 to 80; Concord 348 to 321 and South San Francisco 214 to 170, the report said.
For many Bay Area cities, the 2012 numbers, though higher than in 2011, were below violent crime rates recorded in the previous five years. For example, East Palo Alto marked a violent crime rate of 1,157 in 2012, an increase of 234 over the previous year. However, the rate was even higher in 2009, 1,165, according to the FBI report.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.