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Data shows declining number of shootings on California freeways

New numbers show the commute is getting a little safer for Bay Area drivers after a spike in freeway violence during the pandemic. 

New numbers show freeway shootings over the past two years are declining, and while that’s good news, any number bigger than zero is still an issue. 

“I think people would be happy to say that the numbers are lower but when you are talking about freeway shootings, where we talk about kids are being killed, innocent victims, even five shootings, one shooting is too much,” Dr. Lisa Hill, a Cal State East Bay professor of criminal justice and social work, said.

California highway shootings more than doubled between 2019 and 2021 hitting a peak of 178. By contrast, so far in 2024, the Bay Area has seen 21 shootings.

While the numbers are promising,  Dr. Hill cautions more needs to be done to address root causes.

“DAs and police come in after there has been a victim. This is a bigger social issue,” she said.

Oakland highways along Intestate 880 and Interstate 580 are seeing the most gunfire.

“You have people that are strained, they are upset, they don’t have good paying jobs, there is homelessness, mental health issues,” Dr. Hill said. “All of those social ills are crammed into that little city.”

Since 2023, San Francisco has seen about a dozen freeway shootings — Oakland has seen four times that amount.     

For Councilmember Noel Gallo, progress starts at the city level. 

“Numbers are one thing but what I actually see on the street is another,” he said.

CHP said it’s working to prevent crime before it gets to the highways. They note they’ve been on the streets of Oakland since August, targeting violent crime, leading to dozens of recovered firearms and multiple arrests.  

Now, Gallo wants the CHP to expand their presence.

“We do have state highways here, we need to enforce the rules. The law of the state is a lot different than the city law,” Gallo said. “Within the highway patrol, they are not going to feel sorry for me if I don’t have a drivers license or if I violated the speed limits, so we need their presence here in Oakland.”

With 480 new license plate reader cameras on the way from the state, CHP hopes we’re headed for an even bigger drop in crime stats.

“Safety of the motoring public is the top priority of the California Highway Patrol.  While the noted decrease in freeway shooting is encouraging, we continue to work diligently with our allied agency partners at the local, state, and federal levels to identify trends in violent crimes, allowing us to better allocate resources. The CHP is committed to providing the highest level of safety, service, and security to the people of California, and we will continue our work to stop acts of violence from occurring on our freeways.” CHP Officer Andrew Barclay, spokesperson for CHP, said in a statement. 

“When it comes to the highways, I do see a difference but we have a long way to go,” Gallo said.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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