In our last post, we talked about David Kennedy’s violence reduction strategy, sometimes known as the “Ceasefire” program.
Guess what? We actually started a Kennedy-inspired violence-reduction program here in Oakland. We called the heart of the program “call-ins.” It was operated by Oakland’s Department of Human Services together with the police, Oakland Community Organizations (“OCO”) and with Measure-Y funded “outreach workers.”
In the spring of 2010, OCO put together one of its “actions” to bring attention to the need for more funding for the “call-ins.” OCO asked for $1 million to save young lives. Three Councilmembers (Quan, Kaplan and Reid) attended the action. All spoke enthusiastically about the program. None promised funding.
But Oakland received literally millions of dollars from the State and Federal government to support the Call-in program. As described on the Governor’s web site:
Oakland Gang Reduction, Intervention, and Prevention Program (O-GRIPP) will build upon the City’s Measure Y, a $20 million per year investment in crime reduction, to implement a strategy modeled after the Boston Operation Ceasefire project. O-GRIPP will target six contiguous police beats in West Oakland. It will fund a data analyst, case manager, expanded involvement of the Mayor’s Street Outreach Coordinator and a targeted community education message. It will also form a West Oakland Public Safety Council that will be the focus of neighborhood crime reduction planning. O-GRIPP will use data from probation, parole and police to identify gang-involved individuals and invite them to Call-Ins where law enforcement will outline sanctions for future violence, and job support service programs and employers will offer training, services and jobs.
But the program really never got off the ground. First, it operated mostly as a program offering social services, not the kind of “carrot and stick” program envisioned by Cease Fire. Second, it brought in ridiculously small numbers of participants. From September, 2009 until June, 2011, there were 15 call-ins, with a total of only 113 participants. Two of the call-ins yielded only one participant. By comparison, we understand a recent Bakersfield call-in had 350 participants.
The call-in program did not measure violence reduction. Instead, the goal seemed to be how many participants received job or education referrals, obtained jobs, received transportation passes, legal services, resume assistance, etc. So the one reason for this violence reduction strategy – reducing firearm violence – has never been measured.
And then we abandoned the program. The police declined to participate further. And nobody seems to know what, if anything, will happen next.
As Kennedy puts it, dealing with the “bad” guys is not the problem–we do know how to deal with them, justly and effectively. The problem is dealing with the “good” guys–the well-intended but short-sighted elected officials who fail to properly manage programs and fail to provide ongoing support.
Violent crime in Boston, after it declined greatly for a few years, came back up. The Kennedy-style programs were stopped. Now the programs are starting up again. Oakland’s program barely got started and then had implementation problems, so it was dropped. According to Oakland Deputy Police Chief Ersie Joyner, our problem was finding jobs for the young criminals who wanted to abandon violence and change their lives. So we dropped the program.
Here we are, well into a fifth decade of more than 100 homicides on average annually in Oakland. There is plenty of evidence that properly implemented cease-fire programs really work. Indeed, one of Kennedy’s colleagues in violence-reduction program development has his office here in crime-ridden Oakland–he is Stewart Wakeling of the Public Health Institute.
As with so many of Oakland’s problems, what we are lacking is the leadership and focus of our “good” guys. We need to deal effectively with our “good” guys so that we can start dealing effectively with the bad ones.