Oakland, CA —In a news conference today, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was joined by City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, City Councilmember Dan Kalb, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, Police Chief Anne E. Kirkpatrick, and Violence Prevention Chief Guillermo Cespedes to address the 2019 end-of-year crime statistics and discuss the City’s 2020 approach to reducing violence in Oakland.
Following a record six-year reduction in crime, 2019 ended with a 7 percent increase in violent crime compared to 2018, up 5 percent from the five-year average. Looking over a longer time frame, Oakland’s gun violence reduction has been staggering—a 50 percent drop from 2014 to 2018.
“While it is unacceptable to see any increase in crime, we do want to recognize that overall, we are seeing the longest sustained period of safety that this city has seen in the last 15 years,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Oakland is getting safer, but there is so much more to do. Any loss of life, any harm, any loss of property is unacceptable in our city.”
Oakland’s police Chief Anne E. Kirkpatrick said, “one of the factors that led to an increase in our homicides is the alignment of groups who have come together making a large gang. This is a new dynamic for law enforcement.”
Chief Kirkpatrick recognizes that an increase in crime has an impact on the entire community. OPD remains focused on proven crime prevention strategies: Ceasefire, intelligence-led policing, and implementing a new in-house gun crime intelligence center that recovered more than 800 firearms last year alone. OPD will continue working with law enforcement partners at all levels to reduce violence and solve crimes.
Chief Kirkpatrick noted that one of the biggest drivers increasing Oakland’s overall crime rate was property crimes, including auto burglaries and laptop snatches. In 2017, San Francisco experienced an epidemic of auto burglaries, which they were able to curb in 2018 as a result of an internal task force focused on auto burglaries. Mirroring this strategy, Chief Kirkpatrick has initiated a partnership with the police chiefs in Berkeley, Alameda, San Leandro, Emeryville, and Piedmont to create a similar local task force. Each city will provide two officers per month working in these cities with a laser focus as a team on auto burglaries and laptop snatches.
Oakland is a national leader when it comes to initiatives that have been proven to reduce violence, and City leadership is focusing on long-term, sustainable violence-reduction strategies. Last year Oakland became one of the first cities in the country to launch a Department of Violence Prevention to reduce violence and trauma in our community. In September, Oakland hired its first-ever Chief of Violence Prevention, Guillermo Cespedes, a seasoned expert in domestic and international violence prevention who has a proven track record using a public health approach and community-led strategies to reduce violence.
Championed by West Oakland/Downtown Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, the Department of Violence Prevention (DVP) was created by the City Council to better align, amplify, and elevate Oakland’s violence prevention efforts with a goal to engage the entire city to reduce violent crime. The Department will work directly with victims of violent crime—and those who are most likely to be future victims or perpetrators of violent crime—to dramatically reduce violent crime, and to serve communities impacted by violence to end the cycle of trauma using a public health approach and community-led strategies.
Chief Cespedes said, “Our mission is to reduce gun violence, domestic violence, sex trafficking, and the number of cold cases that remain open—as those cases create a cycle of trauma for families—and to build community resilience so that the communities in Oakland can heal from years of violence and other systemic neglect. To reduce crime, we need to have effective, measurable social programs and effective, trusting relationships between police and community. It’s an ambitious agenda, but I am extremely optimistic and honored to return to Oakland to do this work.”
Councilmember McElhaney said, “It’s a sobering day when we talk about the loss of lives and the ripping away of community that happens when there are acts of violence. I stand with my colleagues today to honor the joint commitment of our Police Department, our social workers, and friends in having a sustained period where we haven’t been as violent as before, but for too many we remain far too violent. Below the 580 we’ve become numbed by a level of pain that is unfathomable. The DVP is a game-changer: this is a major effort to respond to our community mandate to authentically engage with our families before we lose another loved one. I truly believe that when we engage our impacted communities, Oakland can go from being one of the most violent, deadly cities for low-income families, for people of color and African Americans, to being the safest. That is the hope, and that is the work, work that will require all of us.”
“In Oakland, we know the path to reduce the trauma of violence in our community is through community-led partnerships,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “We know we cannot arrest our way out of the epidemic of gun violence. But we can work together as a community to open a new door for those who are most at risk of engaging in or becoming victims of violence. I am thrilled Chief Guillermo Cespedes has joined our City, bringing his expertise, values, and passion to advance community safety in Oakland.”
Chief Kirkpatrick welcomed the partnership: “I am very pleased that the City has invested in creating a Department of Violence Prevention. Chief Cespedes and I will work together to reduce violence in this city. He and his team are the most critical of all. They have an opportunity—and we will support them in every way we can—to deal with upstream factors before they become criminal. That’s where our hope and our future lie—to disrupt the upstream factors.”
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