As Anaheim grapples with the aftermath of two widely publicized fatal police shootings, data shows that police have wounded or killed more people in shootings in the first seven months of 2012 than in the previous two years combined.
Anaheim officer-involved shootings account for more than half of the 13 police shootings in Orange County this year, according to Orange County District Attorney’s Office data obtained by NBC4 through the California Public Records Act. The DA tracks officer-involved shootings that result in injury or death. Other officer-involved shootings are not included in the data.
Of the seven fatal officer-involved shootings countywide so far this year, five occurred in Anaheim.
“Any number of officer-involved shootings is alarming to the Anaheim Police Department," said Sgt. Bob Dunn. "We don’t want to get into any shootings.”
Public safety experts say the spike is cause for alarm.
“They clearly have an escalation,” said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School. “But the real question is why? There’s a lot of smoke, but we don’t know what the fire means. What they need to do is figure out the why. The statistics alone won’t tell them that.”
Steve Connolly, the executive director of the Orange County Office of Independent Review, a civilian police oversight agency, said the spike should serve as a signal to police agencies.
“The numbers are not significant by themselves, except as a flag that suggests more scrutiny of the events and also of the broader trends are needed,” he said.
Dunn said the department is investigating the shootings. “Unfortunately, we can’t point to one specific cause,” he said.
Anaheim is the largest city in Orange County, with a population of more than 335,000 people. It also has some of the county's most deeply entrenched gangs, which tend to drive crime in portions of the city, Dunn said.
Bucking a national trend, Anaheim was among six California cities with a population over 100,000 that saw the biggest spikes in violent crime in 2011, according to FBI crime data.
Santa Ana, the second-largest city in Orange County (population of about 325,000), has seen success in recent years in dramatically reducing gang violence. Santa Ana's police chief was recently recognized by the Orange County Gang Investigators Association for the department's success.
Santa Ana has had no officer-involved shootings so far this year, according to the DA's data.