Six months ago, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan launched her “100-Block Community Initiative to Reduce Violence,” an effort to reduce crime rates and make neighborhoods safer.
The plan was designed for an era of limited police resources by identifying crime hotspots throughout the city and focusing the police’s attention on them. While it’s still too early to judge the initiative’s success, early indications are mixed at best.
First the positive signs. In a policing district that includes both targeted areas in West Oakland, shootings have dropped 20 percent and murders halved in the last few months.
Capt. Jeff Israel, who oversees West Oakland, explained:
“One of the benefits is because we’ve reduced shootings there, it frees up other police officers to go to other calls for services.”
West Oakland residents interviewed by the Trib now say their neighborhoods feel safer.
But that’s only part of the picture. While certain areas are seeing improvements, major crimes are on the rise. The difference is felt especially in areas not targeted by the 100 Blocks program. In February, one East Oakland police beat — not a part of the 100 Blocks program — saw shootings go up by 80 percent, robberies by 56 percent, and burglaries by 37 percent.
Flower shop owner Karen King told the Trib she doesn’t feel safer since 100 Blocks launched. In fact, she’s become even more wary since a December 2 shooting that came too close to her family.
These issues are not entirely Quan’s fault. Crime fell in Oakland from 2006 to 2010 when the Oakland Police were fully-staffed. But as budget woes forced cutbacks in police services and elsewhere, Oakland crime surged again, bucking a national trend.
The lack of officers is certainly a challenge, but a recently-won federal grant is helping the city add 25 new officers to the team.
Mayor Quan notes that having an active police presence is only one part of the solution. Jobs for young people, she said, are also necessary for crime to go down.