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.
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.