We recently received the following e-mail from Reygan Harmon, Oakland’s Operation Ceasefire Director. As those who follow Make Oakland Better Now! are aware, we have been active supporters of Operation Ceasefire since before the current version was implemented. We are still supporters, and recognize the data-based studies showing it is the most effective means of reducing gang and group-based gun violence.
As you will see from our discussion below, we think this is both cause for cheer and cause to recognize there is yet much more to be done.
Here is Reygan Harmon’s brief year-end report:
I want to thank each and every one of you for helping us to end 2017 with significant reductions in shootings and homicides. Specifically, in 2017 we set goals for a minimum of 307 direct communications (this is a combination of call-ins and custom notifications), no more than 72 homicides and 300 injury shootings. This year through all of your hard work we achieved most of our goals with 74 homicides, 277 shootings, and 319 direct communications. This is the lowest number of homicides since 1999! Although, we have a very long way to go with eliminating violence in Oakland it is because of your hard work that lives were saved. As Dr. Cummings would say we have been moving rocks every day since September 14, 2012 to move the mountain of gun violence in Oakland. When we started this work in East Oakland 5 years ago we had no money, no staff, and just a vision for a safer Oakland with a proven strategy. We didn’t know whether this would work, but we believed that Oaklanders deserved something better…And so it was with this hope, strategy, and a lot of faith and focus that every one of you worked to get young men at the very highest risk of violence to change their minds and make better decisions about engaging in violence. Often, these were difficult steps to take. Whether it be pressure to not be in this type of partnership, or the many changes in OPD, City government, lack of support, or the many worthwhile distractions…You all stayed focused. From conversations in living rooms, street corners, jails, or at Lakeshore, to focused police actions. Each and every one of you played a role in a young man making a different decision. A decision to live and be free. This decision has articulated into 327 fewer young men since 2012 being shot/killed in Oakland. I know you all do this work because you care, but I want you to know that your efforts to take that care and concern and translate it into strategic action has saved lives of young people in our community. This work matters and you matter. You all are the unsung heroes of Oakland, and a model and an inspiration for what real partnerships that transform communities can look like.
Reygan E. Harmon
Ceasefire Program Director
Oakland Police Department
( The homicides she refers to are murders, and don’t include self-defense or other justified killings.)
The FBI tracks crime statistics on a city by city basis, but doesn’t release it’s final reports for each year until September of the year that follows. So the FBI gives us no basis for comparison. But the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice calculates year-end estimates for the thirty larges cities in the United States. These obviously don’t include Oakland, but the Brennan Center’s estimate give us some points of comparison. And this year, it estimates that overall crime for 2017 in the thirty largest cities will be down 2.7%, violent crime by 1.1% and murder down by 5.6%. We’ll do a full comparison of these and other numbers when OPD posts its year-end numbers.
For now, there are two key murder statistic comparisons:
- While murder was down 5.6% in the 30 largest cities, it was down 12.9% in Oakland. As the letter from Reygan points out, Oakland had its lowest number of murders since 1999 (when the population was only 365,210, compared to the 420,05 today). This certainly is cause for celebration.
- On the other hand, amongst the 30 largest cities, the 2017 murder rate per 100,000 people is estimated at about 10. In the much improved Oakland environment, the 2017 murder rate per 100,000 people was 17.6.
What does this mean? It means Operation Ceasefire is working and the team has done a great job. But it also means there is much, much more to be done. Oaklanders will be hearing much more from us about this in the weeks and months ahead