We’ve been publishing answers to the questions our audience submitted at January’s Ceasefire Summit. (Read parts one and two here and here.) In our third and final installment, we have a lengthy response from California Partnership for Safe Communities to a question about how Oakland identifies those at highest risk for violence. Thanks to Stewart Wakeling, Vaughan Crandall and Daniella Gilbert for the thorough response, and thanks again to all of our panelists for participating and for the follow-up answers.
For CPSC: How did you estimate 300 very-highest risk? Is this 300 un-duplicated per year?—Anonymous
This working estimate is drawn from the Oakland Problem and Opportunity Analysis (PA), authored jointly by the California Partnership for Safe Communities and the Oakland Police Department.
The PA began with a structured and in-depth review of every homicide that occurred during 2012 and the first six months of 2013 (a total of 171 incidents), the victims and suspects involved in those incidents, and the networks to which those individuals were connected. Each step in the analysis combines the expertise of front-line officers (qualitative information) with trend data and other quantitative information to produce an accurate and detailed account of local violence. The methodology behind this approach to data collection and analysis has been carefully developed by leading criminologists and practitioners over the past 20 years and is considered national best practice.
Specifically, this figure is drawn from what is sometimes referred to as a group or network audit. We found the following:
- There are approximately 50 violent groups in Oakland, with an estimated active membership of 1000 – 1200 people. This is approximately 0.3% of the entire city’s population.
- Of active groups in Oakland, only a small subset of the groups are at highest risk of violence – 18 groups – and, citywide, approximately 300 individuals from these groups were associated with a majority of group-involved violence. We think these are unduplicated as per the question above.
- We refer to this as a working estimate to emphasize the figure is somewhat elastic. CPSC will complete an updated problem analysis in 2016.
OPD conducts weekly shooting reviews to maintain a real time assessment of who is at very highest risk of violence. Weekly shooting reviews over the course of Ceasefire implementation to date suggest that the estimate of 300 individuals at very highest risk of gun violence per year is an accurate one.
Shooting reviews are regular and frequent meetings, during which experienced and knowledgeable practitioners come together as a working group to analyze recent shootings. While there are variations, a shooting review combines analysis, strategy development and implementation. In this way, it serves as a useful management meeting.
- Analysis: understanding and monitoring risk. Practitioners begin their discussion of each incident with basic information available on each shooting, including the date, time, location and individuals involved. Then, a mid-level manager, often assisted by a researcher, facilitates the meeting, systematically working through a series of analytic questions regarding those involved in the shootings, shooting circumstances and motives, and information on the individuals’ involvement in relevant street networks and relationships with a particular focus on potential retaliation.
- Strategy Development: shaping and managing a near-term response. The facilitator follows this analysis with a purposeful but exploratory discussion of how to respond. One of the most important products of shooting reviews is the identification of individuals at highest risk of violence and the development of a plan for addressing that risk, along with a work plan describing who will do what and when. Subsequent meetings begin with a review of the prior meeting’s work plan.
In summary, a problem analysis is conducted periodically (every few years) to tailor the overall approach to local needs, priorities and resources, laying a foundation for strategy development and evaluation. In contrast, shooting reviews – whether convened by criminal justice agencies or outreach and support staff – are used to refine strategies in real time and manage their implementation.
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Thank you for the informative report. Hopefully the new processes will have an effect in reducing homicides long-term.
In addition to my above thanks, I would like to suggest that performance measurement with regard to violent crime should also collect and present additional information which might lead to more and better explanations and policies.
Ceasefire, as far as I know, is a method for reducing homicide numbers within a relatively short time. Ceasefire, although it provides an hypothesis for how many homicides are accomplished, may not tell enough of the story to establish comprehensive policies for minimizing the harms of violent crime in Oakland.
For example, evidence from all shootings in Oakland from sources such as the Shot Spotter technology, from gunshot reports from citizens and from hospital records of treatment of nonlethal gunshot wounds should be collected and analyzed and made available to the public.
If the homicide rate declines within a specific time period and the gross number of shootings does not decline in a relevant way, then we may have to look further for a better explanation of how homicides are accomplished here. We will also have to look for better policies for reducing violence.