This is the third in a series of posts on Measure Z, which is on Oakland’s November ballot and which we support. In the first, we talked about why police matter. In the second we talked about Measure Z’s minimum staffing requirement. Here, we talk about Operation Cease Fire and violence prevention programs.
Oakland’s Operation Cease Fire Is Making a Difference and Should Be Expanded
Beginning in 2011, MOBN! was one of two Oakland groups (the other was Oakland Community Organizations) advocating to have the City implement a Cease Fire program following the model described by David Kennedy in “Don’t Shoot.” This is the gun-violence reduction strategy that has succeeded as an organizing principle in Cincinnati, Boston and many other cities. Comparing this year to the past three, murders are down 34%, firearm assaults 17% and robberies 22%. We are convinced Cease Fire has played a major role. But like most municipal activities (and not just in Oakland), Cease Fire has been under resourced, with no guaranteed source of revenue for its program manager or data analysis, and an inadequate number of case managers. Measure Z provides funding to expand this very important strategy.
Many Violence Prevention Programs Provide Real Value to the Community; Measure Z’s Data-Based Selection Criteria and Oversight Requirements Will Strongly Favor the Selection and Retention of Violence Prevention Programs That Actually Prevent Violence.
A common refrain from those who know little about violence prevention programs goes something like this: “There’s no evidence that any of these violence prevention programs actually have any impact in reducing violence.” MOBN! has spent a lot of time looking at Oakland’s programs, and we have found that like most generalities, this one is an untrue oversimplification. Furthermore, we are convinced that the oversight requirements in the new measure will have a positive impact in making sure that violence prevention programs funded by the new measure must prove they are reducing violence.
Are there programs that are less than perfect? We imagine there are. But we also know there are programs providing essential re-entry services – job search skills and jobs, education, training, life skills — to recently incarcerated persons released into the community. We know there are responders to violence in the community who have an enormous impact on keeping acts of violence from being compounded by acts of revenge. We know that Operation Cease Fire won’t work without program support. And we know Oakland’s Department of Human Services has data showing that the majority of tracked service recipients in these programs stay out of the criminal justice system.
There are three features in the accountability portions of Measure Z we really like:
- First, violence prevention programs under Measure Z must arise out of a “coordination of public systems and community-based social services with a joint focus on youth and young adults at highest risk of violence as guided by data analysis.” In other words, let’s use data to figure out who we need to serve to reduce the risk of violence, and then coordinate everything done by public systems (police, probation, human services, etc.) and non-profit service providers to reduce the risk among those persons.
- Second, Measure Z replaces the former Measure Y oversight committee, to which anyone could be appointed, with a new “Public Safety and Services Violence Prevention Commission” whose nine members must have experience in criminal justice, public health, social services, research and evaluation, finance, audits, and/or public policy.
- Third, the new commission has far more significant responsibilities than the Measure Y oversight committee, including participation in setting evaluation criteria, recommending strategies for continuance and termination, and participation in a meaningful way in the evaluation process.
While It Is Not The Answer to All of Our Public Safety Needs, Measure Z Has The Potential of Helping Oakland Improve Public Safety With No Increase In Taxes. Defeat of the Measure Will Seriously Damage The City.
When it began collaborating on this ballot measure, Make Oakland Better Now! was looking for global solutions to all of Oakland’s crime problems. As part of the process, we worked with other organizations in a public opinion research endeavor which showed us, unfortunately, that Oakland voters are not ready for the global solutions and that above all else, they didn’t want a tax increase. And they were adamant they wanted violence prevention services to be part of any measure they voted on. So we worked with our partners in the community to urge a ballot measure that improved Measure Y and gave Oaklanders better value for their small parcel tax and parking tax. Measure Z does those things. It deserves Oaklanders’ votes.