Sunday, November 16, 2008

Effect of Eli's Mile-High Club on crime in the neighborhood

One of the less intuitive assertions by Hearing Officer Barbara Killey, at the August 28th hearing to assess whether or not Eli's Mile High Club should receive a cabaret permit, was the concept that the club would be held responsible for all crime in the vicinity. Even if a crime occurred on someone else's property, during hours when the club was closed, it would be assumed to be due to the presence of the club. The rationale was that the club would attract people, and therefore criminals, to the area. However, statistics on crime in that neighborhood now indicate that the open club has little if any effect on criminal activity.

At the time, it strained credulity to believe that a business owner should be held accountable for criminal activities he neither condones nor profits from, by individuals he does not know, on property he does not own or control, even during hours when his business is closed. But the concept fit in perfectly with the City's anti-business posture that has spurred many community-serving establishments to flee Oakland for more friendly, neighboring communities. It also helped to expose the ongoing hyprocisy in a City that repeatedly funnels scarce resources into youth-oriented arts programs (most recently Measure OO) whose benefits are difficult to measure, while at the same time denying mature artists the venues, funding and programs that would allow the arts to flourish here. Now, however, crime statistics around Eli's make it clear that the presence of the club has no measurable effect on crime in the neighborhood--which, incidentally, is in police Beat 6, acknowledged through OPD measurement of "stressors" to be the most high-crime area in the City.

The "Crimewatch" tool at allows one to filter crime reports within 500 feet of an address, by month. Since the club reopened in early August, I searched for the crime reports in August, September and October, then compared them to June as a "control" month, when the club was closed. Compared to eight incidents logged in June, there were five in August, five in September and six in October. November is half over and there has only been one reported incident on Crimewatch. Obviously, there is no "blip" here, no spike in crime caused by the presence of an active business in the neighborhood.

Could it be time to admit that the City's anti-business stance is without merit, and grant the club the cabaret permit it seeks?

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