Would-Be AGs Trade Fire on Crime

To borrow from — and then tweak — an old adage, there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics in the Democratic race for attorney general. Former governor and current Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown came to Sacramento last Thursday to accept an endorsement from the California Police Chiefs Association. Flanked by two association leaders, Brown reminded reporters that he lives in a tough Oakland neighborhood, that he’s collected shell casings in front of his downtown loft and that he campaigned against Proposition 66, the 2004 ballot initiative that would have placed limits on California’s Three Strikes Law.

The message? Jerry Brown, derided by critics in the 1980s as an out-of-touch liberal, knows crime. Jerry Brown fights crime. Jerry Brown is no Moonbeam.

But Brown’s opponent, Los Angeles City Attorney Rockard “Rocky? Delgadillo, had his own message for reporters covering the endorsement. In a press release issued hours before the Brown event, Delgadillo accused his Democratic rival of “masking? a 7 percent spike in the homicide rate between 2004 and 2005. Brown “has ignored law enforcement issues as mayor of Oakland,? Delgadillo charged.

Hogwash, Brown shot back. Compare the seven years before the Brown administration and the mayor’s first seven years in office and the homicide rate is actually down 38 percent, his campaign said. Total crime in the same period dropped 33.9 percent.

Delgadillo “is taking little microcosms of statistics and distorting them,? said Brown campaign consultant Ace Smith.

The statistical spat reflects both candidates’ attempts to establish tough-on-crime credentials, an interesting tactic given that the Democratic primary tends to attract more liberal voters than the general election. But Brown is eager not to be painted as a soft-on-crime flake, and Delgadillo wants to be seen as more than a paper-pushing bureaucrat who knows more about code violations than violent crime.

So what’s the truth about Brown’s record on crime? It’s all in how you group the statistics. The most recent figures available from the state Department of Justice show that violent crimes in Oakland dropped 6.6 percent in the first six months of 2005, compared to the same period in 2004. Property crimes, however, jumped 22.8 percent.

Cheryl Miller

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