Oakland Project Ceasefire Update

Members of the MOBN! board recently met with Oakland’s Project Ceasefire team for a progress update. While the project is moving slowly, it is moving in the right direction.  We are pleased with the team’s care, thought and implementation, with one reservation:  the project still needs a full-time manager to devote his or her full attention to this important project.  Team members also see this need.  At the City Council Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 11 at 5:30, they will be asking for an allocation of Measure Y reserve funds for a full-time manager.   MOBN! will be attending the meeting to urge that the committee recommend, and Council ultimately approve, the dedicated management everyone in the Cease Fire process agrees is essential.  We’ve also expressed our views in this letter to the Committee.

MOBN! members know that we and other community groups have been advocating for an effective Ceasefire program for a number of years now.  The evidence from across the country is that when implemented carefully and properly, Cease Fire is one of the few strategies proven to reduce homicides in violent cities.  Point 4 of the MOBN! Public Safety Plan provides:

The City must fully implement long-term Cease Fire programs for gun violence reduction and open-air drug market elimination, based on the Cincinnati /Boston model. The City must regularly report to the citizens on the extent to which these programs are reducing gun violence and eliminating open-air drug markets.

More information is available here, here, here and here.  Scott Johnson’s recent post on the City’s current efforts is available at Oakland Effect here.

Oakland needs for this project to work, but for it to work it must be taken very seriously by the Oakland administration. It cannot be  a half-supported measure that gets partial attention. It needs a full-time manager.

MOBN! members met with the two people who, together, are managing the project in addition to their other duties: Reygan Harmon, Oakland’s Senior Policy Advisor for Public Safety; and OPD’s Lt. Leronne Armstrong. Also included in the meeting were  Stewart Wakeling, Vaughn Crandall and Daniela Gilbert of the California Partnership for Safe Communities, a group of experts on Project Ceasefire who have been working with Oakland to implement the project.

While there is plenty of skepticism among Oaklanders about the City’s violence reduction efforts – and properly so – we are convinced that the team involved in this project is made up of serious people who mean business.  They understand that, after Oakland’s previous failed “call-in” experience, we may only have one more chance to make this work.  They understand that the people they are dealing with are “hyper-violent,” and that if, as Cease Fire posits, these people are to act as messengers back to their cohorts, the message has to be carefully designed and meaningfully delivered. They also agree that the measure of success will not be the number of call-ins, the number of services accepted or even the number of arrests.  The proper measure will be whether shootings are reduced.  And it will likely take a year from initial implementation to see if the efforts are working.

As readers of Don’t Shoot know, the first step in a properly undertaken Cease Fire project is data analysis to ensure the team understands the links between gangs or groups and shootings, and starts with the “worst first.”  The Oakland team analyzed each homicide over a twelve month period, interviewing homicide and beat officers reviewing data and identifying East Oakland as the area of greatest need.  The first call-in was in October of this year.  Twenty probationers or parolees were invited, and all attended.  The second call-in will be in early 2013.  In the meantime, there have been “custom interventions” – one-on-one messaging – and street outreach efforts.

So the process has started.  We  questioned whether OPD has the ability to do the requisite follow-through, the “holding them accountable if they don’t stop the violence” part.  Members of the team assured us that because they were staring with a small group and working outward, OPD and the cooperating agencies – Probation, Sheriff, ATF, US Marshall’s office and others are fully able to follow through.

This is only a beginning, a hopeful one but still only a beginning, and much work remains to be done. As Stewart Wakeling pointed out Oakland has a 40-year average of 107 murders per year; nothing will end this overnight. We cannot expect miracles from Ceasefire, but if the City commits to the program, we should see progress. The City’s team is clearly committed.  City Council needs to show its commitment by allocating Measure Y funds for a full-time manager.

Make Oakland Better Now!

OakTalk Here is the blog of Make Oakland Better Now!, an Oakland community grassroots group of a grass-roots group of voters, volunteers, and policy advocates committed to improving the City of Oakland by focusing on public safety, public works, and responsible budgets. Founded in 2003, we’ve researched, lobbied, and successfully campaigned for a number of new, impactful policies, including the city’s Rainy Day Fund, Measure Z and Operation Ceasefire.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. From our perspective, having lived in Deep East Oakland now for over 10 years, and from living East of 105th for the last 3 years of that time, and being literally a nationally-recognized expert on urban history, urban violence, and related civil rights issues and laws, and from knowing the people who write the “other books” about this topic, and from being friends with the people who win related civil rights litigation, and from being a member of our local religious communities and social clubs, and from having family right here in East Oakland. From all of “that,” I see Scott Johnson as being little more than an entitled surfer-dude carpetbagger, whose writings are being mostly being funded by a grant from a large consortium of wealthy for-profit hospitals (“The California Endowment,” which has ties to the Mayor’s husband, BTW), and I see Ceasefire as being not much more than way for misguided folks to make money from our pain.

    It will not work.

    Even if done perfectly. It just won’t work, and that is the message from the street, and is something you won’t hear from the guys in suits, who drive the nice cars, and live in the nice houses, and who do not actually live and function here, like I do.

    Oakland is not like Boston, and I have actualy met people who are familiar with Kennedy’s “work” in Boston, so this is somewhat inside intel. I just know a lot of actual “winners” on the anti-violence stuff – and they are not “this” crowd.

  2. As always, folks are free to come back to my neighborhood of Sobrante Park, and we will *tell* you what will work. I will literally walk you folks around and introduce you to the people who know what works. What will work is (1) jobs, and (2) morals. Jobs and morals. Nothing else.


  3. Paula Hawthorn

    Yes we need jobs & morals; but also we need Ceasefire. Stats:

    Indianapolis IVRP ‐34% total homicide
    Stockton Operation Peacekeeper ‐42% gun homicide
    Lowell PSN ‐44% gun assaults
    Cincinnati CIRV 42% GMI homicide, ‐21% injury shootings
    Newark Ceasefire NS reduction in gunshot wound incidents
    LA Operation Ceasefire Sig. short‐term reduction in violent, gun crime
    Chicago PSN ‐37% homicide, ‐30% recidivism rate
    Nashville DMI 56% reduction in drug offenses
    Rockford DMI ‐22% non‐violent offenses
    Hawaii HOPE ‐26% recidivism rate
    Boston Operation Ceasefire ‐63% youth homicide

  4. One last missive, since I have been wanting to say this for a long time. If the money spent on these myriad “social programs” would have been used to create actual jobs, instead of having been used to kind of fund a slushy patronage system that has been historically used to keep certain folks in political office, we would have already won.

    I know that the smart folks at MOBN see this, and my guess is that they choose to ignore it. No rational person can think that a “social program” designed to fight the ills of poverty is actually “better” than just not having poverty in the first place. That tells me that folks are playing political dice with a lot of this crap. And see, folks – the problem is that dice game is a dangerous gamble, since we only get craps out here. Snake eyes. And snake oil, to boot.

  5. Paula – stuff like that does not work in Oakland. I do not know how to put this, but we are too hardcore for it to work. Have you ever wondered why we have “no” Bloods or Crips? They are afraid to come here. This is truth sister. Ask any cop, and he or she will tell you the same thing. Seriously, just poll it.

    And we kind of like it that way.

    As always, folks need to come out to the flats more, and just ask folks “hey, do you think x, y, or z will work.” I do this, since I live here Sister. And the deal is, “we” do not think this stuff will work. And since we do not think it will work, it won’t work.

    We have no faith in this stuff, and we are not statistics. The MAIN THING I hear, here is (1) we need money, and (2) folks need to act better. Jobs and morals, with some *real* wraparound services. That is another thing, there is much fraud here. We hardly ever see actuao service delivery out here, so I do not know what the suits are telling you folks on the hill. For God’s sake, okease must come to the flats and talk directly with your consituents, like I do. Please stop with the telegraphing in of lame policy. This has to end.

  6. Paula and Bruce, I know you all like numbers. Can’t you see that Ceasefire is basically a type of slush? Here are some numbers from an audit of the Chicago version. And Chicago is NOW going on record as having its most violent year ever. Programs like this are harmful because people “think” they are fixing an issue, when all they are doing is profiting from our pain. These things just turn into slush, with money getting siphoned off at every level, and I have had a forensic accountant look at some of this stuff, so I know I am not “off” on this analysis.


  7. Mike

    A very useful piece, thank you, but very disquieting. Competent management of any project especially where there is a high level of risk demands 1. Thorough knowledge of the problem; 2. All necessary resources, especially management, in place before start-up; 3. A well-coordinated management team with the best-available management talent.

    The City Council must be part of the management team, supporting other agencies and one another. Council members and the Mayor remain, however, disconnected from reality and divisive, ever vying for attention and recognition and failing to work together. Crime data analysis is a critical part of contemporary police work but the Council and Mayor have refused to provide OPD with adequate resources to provide ongoing working knowledge of our crime problems.

    The risk for Oakland of another failed Ceasefire effort is that there will be even less credibility for government generally and particularly OPD in East Oakland. The ongoing violence in East Oakland over the past 40 years might best be seen as the result of a lack of effective civic authority. As Kevin points out, much of East Oakland doesn’t know in which direction City Hall lies and could scarcely care less.

  8. Mike – you nailed it. The way to think about it is this: go watch this video, it is about the EXACT SAME THING that was tried in 1974.


    The hope words are the same, the concepts are the same. Same thing, from before many were even born here. It got folks hopes up, then failed like everything else here fails. There is no magic bullet for social ills. What works is pure economics. Us folks down here need the freedom to open businesses of all sizes, so that we can COMPETE in the marketplace with the hill folks. And of course, that sentence outlines the issue. It is not a stretch to say what we have here is exactly class oppression, in the classical sense that many have talked about, before me.

    Rich folks in the hills, essentially “game” the violence issue here for “fun and profit.” This is verifiable just by pulling up the “form 990’s” of the non-profts engaged on the issue here. The Directors almost to a single one (and there are around 5000 non-profits in Oakland city limits), well – they are not FROM HERE. They “fly in” these policies, and then essentially game the carnage for media and career/political reasons. Folks, I am reporting directly from the streets when I say these things, and it is not just me. It is entitled folks, who live in the hills, who approach people like me, with almost a sense of nobless oblige.

    It is morally reprehinsible, amd there is a reason our East Oakland churches rarely touch these social programs. We discern the truth abot them. We know exactly how “confidence games,” and “swindles” are done. Our churches are full of folks from the street, like me, for example.

    We know true “crime,” when we see it, and these sorts of dog and pony shows just “are” esssentially criminal, in that folks profit from our pain, but nothing ever gets fixed.

    It is not an accident that I sound more and more like a Panther these days.

    It “is” what they said it “was.”

    They were not wrong.

  9. Bruno Jannoi

    Jean Quan just hired Sandre Swanson to help her look better in select communities. She needs Sandre more than Oakland needs him.

    Will she hire the sorely needed director for the Cease Fire program?

  10. hedera

    Mr. Thompson,
    You say that only two things will work on Oakland’s situation: (1) Jobs. (2) Morals. You also claim that Oakland is So Bad that the Crips and the Bloods are afraid to come here, and that “we kind of like it that way.” If all those statements are true, there is no solution to this situation. There is no hope.

    Let’s take your requirements in reverse order. I agree that Morals are necessary for a civilized community – which Oakland, especially East and West Oakland, isn’t. But – morals are not something anyone can hand to you. If parents don’t raise their children with morals, the children won’t have morals; it’s that simple. Adults can sometimes change their moral attitude through the influence of reading, or conversation with a respected mentor. But if everybody “likes it that way,” there will be no changes.

    Your first requirement was Jobs, and I agree, without jobs there is also no hope. But jobs, like morals, don’t appear out of the air. Jobs happen when someone believes his business will make more money if he hires someone to help out. Businesses make money when customers come in and spend. But – in East and West Oakland, customers coming in to spend are risking either straight mugging or random gunfire. There will be NO jobs growth in East Oakland – or anywhere in Oakland – as long as the shooting goes on. That’s just how it is. There are too many other places in the Bay Area to set up a business and make money.

    We also agree that the existing social programs are a total waste of money. I’ve heard a couple of them describe what they do, and neither of them could explain IN NUMBERS what they were doing and how well it worked. This means they don’t bother to know. They are a waste. But – with what do we replace them? If not what’s there now, then what? I don’t have answers. You don’t seem to have answers either. I understand your rant. I’m also deeply suspicious of Ceasefire’s success, because it depends on arresting people and convicting them and sending them away – and Oakland’s arrest rate is dropping like a rock in a pond. If Ceasefire doesn’t work, things will get worse. We have to think of something else. What?

  11. hedera

    In fact, it’s a really bad sign that the city is sitting around mumbling about allocating Measure Y funds for a fulltime Ceasefire manager. I attended a meeting on Ceasefire in North Oakland at least 3-4 months ago at which we were told (by Reygan Harmon) that funds for the fulltime Ceasefire manager were then available. We were led to believe the hiring process was about to start. And here we are now and they’re still dithering. I have a bad feeling about this.

  12. hedera

    I was wrong. That meeting on Ceasefire I attended was in April. In April they said they had the funds for a fulltime manager and were going ahead. In December they’re futzing around with Measure Y funds and they haven’t started. The process has not started and may never start, because the city government Does Not Give A Damn. We should go into Federal receivership and hope to get someone who can actually manage a police department.

  13. Bruno Jannoi

    Your observations are correct, Jean Quan doesnt give a damn about our safety. And you need to be told that Reygan Harmon was the person who created the fictional 100 blocks plan. They have lied before and they will lie again.
    The social programs are nothing more than a way for our leaders to buy votes for the next election.
    We must remove these vermin from City Hall if we want to see a better and safer Oakland.

  14. hedera

    Bruno, this isn’t the first time I’ve wanted a button to wear that reads, “Don’t Blame Me, I Didn’t Vote For Her.”

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