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Zero murders in East Palo Alto in 2023

Photo courtesy San Mateo County

Police in East Palo Alto announced on New Year's Day 2024 that the community had zero murders reported in 2023, it took work to go beyond the stigma of the early 1990s when the city was dubbed the nation's "murder capital."

"Together, we celebrate a momentous milestone in 2023: the East Palo Alto community, once marked by adversity, has triumphed with zero murders this past year," Chief Jeff Liu said in his New Years Day statement.

The peninsula community had gained a reputation for high rates of violent crime in the 1980s and 1990s, at a time when the city struggled on multiple fronts, including revenue issues, the crack epidemic, along with police corruption and misconduct.

In 1992, 42 homicides were reported in the city of 24,000 people, the most murders per capita in the U.S. that year.

"Your collective commitment to safety and unity has transformed our city, evolving from the challenges of 1992 when we faced 42 murders, to now, a community that stands resilient and stronger than ever," Liu went on to say.

Over the past three decades, the community has undergone a major transformation, with changes in leadership and policing. At the same time, the area near University Avenue and Highway 101, which was once known as "Whiskey Gulch," has also been extensively redeveloped, with a Four Seasons hotel and a large shopping center. 

According to county officials, violent crime in East Palo Alto had dropped 60% from 1990s levels by 2017, with only one murder reported in the city that year. "I extend my deepest gratitude to each and every one of you for your invaluable partnership in fostering a safer and thriving East Palo Alto. This achievement is a testament to the power of community, and I am proud to share in this success with all of you" the chief concluded in his statement.


Michael Uhila is an East Palo Alto Today writer/contributor.

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