Oakland’s crime crisis became even more heart wrenching this month following two particularly senseless murders: 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine was shot inside her best friend’s apartment, and 66 year old Judy Salamon was shot for no apparent reason while driving. These headline-grabbing incidents overlay the shootings, home invasions and armed robberies that made Oakland the 3rd most violent city in America last year.

As the elected representative for the Dimond and Maxwell Park neighborhoods where Alaysha and Judy lived, I owe residents a response to the question on every Oaklander’s mind: What is City Hall doing to stop this senseless violence?

More Police, Better Policing

Over the last few years, recession budget cuts decimated Oakland’s police force (OPD)—shrinking it from 837 to 613 officers. At the same time, OPD’s failure to achieve court-ordered reforms means our policing practices have been less effective and have failed to rebuild public trust.

Over the last 6 months, Oakland’s City Council has made real progress in reversing these trends. We have:

  • Added 36 more civilian positions to OPD to increase 911 response, improve investigations and free up officers to do more policing work;
  • Funded four police training academies over two years, growing OPD to 700 officers;
  • Contracted with County Sheriffs and California Highway Patrol to supplement officer presence;
  • Secured renowned crime expert Bill Bratton’s recommendations for geographic-based policing and better use of data for improved officer accountability;
  • Welcomed Compliance Director Thomas Frazier who is improving policing practices and building community trust;
  • Supported new OPD leaders who have been the first to garner praise from independent court monitors as having the “personal and professional commitment to reforming the Department;” and
  • Approved policy tools to support policing, including a ban on tools of violence at protests.

As these new polices are implemented and new personnel are hired, trained and placed on the streets, Oakland should see a tangible change in safety.

Studies show there is no more certain or cost-effective means for immediate crime reduction than adding police—particularly in a city like Oakland, which is consistently cited as one of the most under-policed cities in America.

But this is just a start. We need to reach OPD’s strategic plan goal of reaching 925 officers. As we recruit these new officers, we need to ensure they are truly suited for community-based policing in Oakland. We need to expand our use of data for predictive policing, as well as address all factors that contribute to crime hot spots.

Continued Commitment to Prevention & Intervention

While police are Oakland’s most urgent need, they are not our only need.

Oakland’s successful violence prevention and intervention programs must be supported and expanded—from after-school programs, to Ceasefire’s focused interventions and street outreach workers who interrupt violent cycles of retaliation.

These programs are funded by voter-approved taxes, which is why they did not suffer such deep cuts as OPD did. The Oakland Fund for Children and Youth (OFCY) supports 122 primarily after-school programs serving nearly 29,000 Oakland children. Oakland Unite’s violence prevention and intervention programs serve roughly 4,500 youth and young adults, plus 31,000 people who engage annually with our street outreach workers. Rigorous evaluations and citizen oversight committees ensure wise investments (see ofcy.org and oaklandunite.org). Many of our programs have received recognition, including the prestigious California Peace Prize.

Voter-approved funds for Oakland Unite programs, as well as funds for 63 police officers, expire in 2015. We need to start a deep community conversation about whether and how voters might renew these investments.

Strengthening Neighborhoods, Empowering Residents

Clean, cared-for neighborhoods send a message that residents will not tolerate criminal behavior. An organized neighborhood where residents know and watch-out for each other is also a powerful force. The Oakland City Council recently expanded funding to support neighborhood safety efforts and combat illegal dumping and neighborhood blight.

Government cannot create safety alone. We need your help: from mentoring a young person, to reviving your neighborhood watch, to helping craft a new public safety tax.

Stories like Alaysha’s and Judy’s don’t belong in our beloved city. Join me in making Oakland the safe city it deserves to be.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

3 Responses

  1. Colin

    I find this bullet point troubling: “Funded four police training academies over two years, growing OPD to 700 officers”

    I’m going to assume that this is a misstatement, and not an intentional effort to mislead people, but I think it’s important to keep the facts straight: 2 police academies a year does not get us to 700 officers in 2 years, it gets us there in 5 – assuming no academies are cancelled.

    On average 30 people graduate from each police academy, so with 2 academies a year, we would be turning out somewhere around 60 new officers anually. We lose 40-45 officers each year to attrition, so that’s a net gain of 15-20. We currently have 613 officers on the force, so this plan gets us to 700 somewhere in about 2018, assuming that nobody decides to cancel any in between now and then. Which is a big assumption.

    And at that rate it will take about 17 years to get us to 925. That’s 2030, based on optimistic numbers.

    This math just doesn’t work out well for our city. And as you yourself pointed out, “Studies show there is no more certain or cost-effective means for immediate crime reduction than adding police—particularly in a city like Oakland, which is consistently cited as one of the most under-policed cities in America.”

    We can do better. We have to.

  2. Tyson

    “Studies show there is no more certain or cost-effective means for immediate crime reduction than adding police” – What studies? Who funds such studies – police associations? Private prison corporations? And what about long-term reduction, instead of just “immediate”?

    What about actually addressing the root causes of crime (economic factors/poverty, social environment, family structures) in a way that is productive, positive, and of benefit to society as a whole?

    More police and contracting with Bratton (a proponent of racial profiling) are hardly going to solve anything in the long run – unless the goal is a frightened and imprisoned public so the opulent can sleep well at night.

    Sounds like more political shortsightedness to me, with no intention of actually resolving an issue.

  3. Dan

    Tyson, more police will help with problems like the armed robbery that took place in my neighborhood in broad daylight this afternoon. If such behavior is tolerated until the economy, society, and families that created such criminals can be fixed, Oakland will become a violent ghost town as decent, law-abiding, non-violent individuals and their family and friends leave (which is already happening).

    Who are the “opulent” you talking about? The criminals are targeting the lower, working, and middle class residents of Oakland. Evidence (crime map of armed robberies and murders in Oakland since Feb 2013): http://www.crimemapping.com/map.aspx?ll=-13606957.328420663,4550144.927968504&z=14&mc=world-street&cc=HO,RO&db=2/13/2013&de=8/12/2013

    How many do you see in hills? Now how many do you see in the flatlands?


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