Updated: The Department of Violence Prevention Proposal Is Not Ready, So We Are Suspending Our Support

Just about a month ago, we supported a proposal by City Council member Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Council President Larry Reid to establish a Department of Violence Prevention.

After several hearings and further research, we have changed our position. This proposal goes to City Council on Tuesday, May 16. A brief summary of our current position, and our suggestions for further action, are set out below.

We certainly agree with council members Gibson McElhaney and Reid that violence in Oakland is a critical problem and needs to be addressed with more urgency than we are seeing.

We continue to hear announcements from those in City government that community violence has decreased, and that Oakland is no longer one of the ten most violent cities in the Unites States. While these are technically true, the key fact is this: Oakland continues to be one of the most violent large cities in California and the United States.

We also agree with council member Gibson McElhaney and Reid that administration of and accountability for Oakland’s violence prevention programs need to be elevated, more transparent, and more openly accountable.

On the other hand, operations of some of Oakland’s programs – particularly those which are keys to Operation Ceasefire –  cannot be disrupted without having a seriously adverse impact on violence. The change in status, and the administration, organization and management of these programs, should not be adjusted on the fly, as the proposal suggests.

In it’s December 2013 report, “Zeroing Out Crime,” Strategic Policy Institute advised the city: “Every agency must see itself as part of the crime solution and coordinate initiatives.” We still believe this. And we believe there should be a collaborative effort between Council, the Administration, Oakland Unite, OPD and Ceasefire to work with one of the nation’s leading experts on violence reduction program leadership and administration to design a system to elevate and increase the effective management and operation of all of our violence reduction programs.

Once this happens, we hope to appear before council in support of change. But the strategy for elevating programs and increasing their effectiveness is not in the current proposal.

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 4 Comments

  1. Marleen Sacks

    What a shallow argument. What would this department do? How would it help? Is there any precedent in any other city with demonstrated success? How much would it cost? Reducing violent crime is and should be a law enforcement priority. We need more police. We need more investigations. We need more arrests, case closures and convictions. The concept of “violence prevention” has been a demonstrable failure with Measure Y and Z. $250 million down the drain. Throwing good money after bad is not the answer.

  2. Hobart Johnson

    Wow. Another poorly-run bureaucracy which will solve Oakland’s violence problems! Somehow Oakland will come up with the funds to get this beast going sometime in the next decade. And somehow first-rate management will be available to run the new department. Don’t let us forget to set up a citizen’s oversight committee to oversee the new department.

    Oakland’s Dan Siegal recently wrote a piece on how to reduce violence in Oakland. Some good ideas can be found here: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/02/15/policing-oakland

  3. Charles

    The violence discussed here is selective. This proposed bureaucracy would do nothing about the violence of robberies, the violence of burglaries that turn violent, and the violence of home invasions. It would if anything reduce attention to the thousands of these crimes that Oakland residents, employees of businesses, and visitors suffer every year.

    Furthermore, in her short tenure on the city council, Gibson McElhaney has committed act after shameless act of graft and corruption. Coming from her, this proposal is another opportunity for more.

  4. Marvin

    What a waste of public funds! Create jobs and invest in public schools. That would address violence at its source. No need for another useless “department”.

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