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Oakland’s Operation Ceasefire Has Some Success in 2017 — What Can We Look For Next?

Ceasefire Oakland

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:

Hi Everyone,

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.

Thank you!

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

 

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Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z (III)

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.

Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z (II)

Part Two: Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z

This is the second in a series of posts on Measure Z, which is on Oakland’s November ballot and which we support. Last time we talked about why police matter. This time we talk about Measure Z’s minimum staffing requirement.

Screenshot 2014-09-11 at 11.06.42 AM

Measure Z Has A Real, “Boots on the Ground” Police Staffing Requirement

Measure Y, passed ten years ago, required that the City budget for at least 803 police as a condition to collecting the taxes, but had no requirement that any particular number be actually hired. So the City budgeted for 803, but only actually hired that number for a brief period in 2009. Then, the City stopped hiring police and then laid off 80 officers. This reduced the number of police into the mid-600’s. After that, the voters passed Measure BB, eliminating the threshold altogether.

Although it’s a lower number than 803, Measure Z reinstates a hiring threshold, requiring the City to immediately budget for at least 678 police, and hire and maintain that number as soon as practicable (and no later than mid-2016). Here is what it says:

Upon passage of this Ordinance, the City shall maintain a budgeted level of no fewer than six hundred seventy eight (678) sworn police personnel (including those sworn police personnel funded by this Ordinance) at all times, and shall hire and maintain no fewer than 678 sworn police personnel as early as practicable after the passage of this Ordinance and at all times after July 1, 2016.

Further, “The City shall be prohibited from collecting the taxes provided for in this Ordinance at any time that” it fails to meet these requirements, with certain limited exceptions.

Furthermore, as the City Auditor has observed, to maintain a floor of 678 police, the City has to budget for at least 700 officers, and probably more. As the number of officers fluctuates up and down, the number will often be more than 700. And while there are a few exceptions to the requirement, we are convinced those exceptions will be very hard – and in some instances impossible — to establish.

Is 678 police – or 700 – enough? Of course not. MOBN! has long taken the position that Oakland needs at least 900 police, and a resource allocation study to show how many we need and how they should be assigned. But getting to that number will have to be for another day. Meanwhile, a reduction of 52 to 59 officers resulting from defeat of Measure Z will surely make things worse – likely reducing police staffing to a number below 600. Oakland voters should not make things worse.

Make Oakland Better Now! Supports Measure Z– a Public Safety Measure with No Tax Increase (I)

MAKE OAKLAND BETTER NOW! SUPPORTS MEASURE Z – A PUBLIC SAFETY MEASURE WITH NO TAX INCREASE

HERE ARE THE REASONS WHY

The most important local measure on this November’s ballot is Measure Z, “The 2014 Oakland Public Safety and Services Violence Prevention Act.” We are convinced that Measure Z fixes many of the problems with Measure Y, results in no new taxes, and will have a positive impact on public safety in Oakland. The measure will fund Oakland police officers who will focus on reducing shootings, violent crime, robberies, and homicides and increase support for the Ceasefire model and community policing in every neighborhood in Oakland. It will support proven community programs that support our at-risk youth and reduce crime, with an enhanced level of oversight and accountability. Accordingly, we urge Oaklanders to vote for Measure Z, and encourage them to attend the campaign kickoff this Saturday, September 13 at 10:00 a.m. at the Archway at Lake Merritt (On El Embarcadero between Lakeshore and Grand).

Screenshot 2014-09-11 at 11.06.42 AM

Over the next week, MOBN! will publish five posts on this critical subject. In the first three posts, we will explain why we support this measure. Then, we will publish a chart comparing Measure Y and Measure Z and showing the multiple areas in which Measure

Z improves on its predecessor. Finally, we will discuss a series of myths and misconceptions about Measure Y and Measure Z and show why those myths are wrong. To start, here is why we are supporting this measure:

Part One: Why MOBN! Supports Measure Z

Policing makes a difference: For more than five years, MOBN! has studied what does and does not have an impact on violent crime in cities. We know from the experiences in Los Angeles and New York that a felt police presence reduces violent crime. We know from the studies described by McCabe that communities reduce crime and improve police / community relations when police have sufficient staffing so that no more than 60% of officer patrol time is spent responding to calls, with the rest devoted to community problem solving.

Oakland has one of the highest per-capita rates of police calls for service in the United States. Officers have almost no time to do anything but respond to those calls, and many calls get responses days after they come in, if there is a response at all. So there certainly is not the amount of time for problem solving that allows every officer to be a problem solving officer. And while the experience of one city does not amount to a statistically valid analysis, we also know what happened when Oakland reduced its number of sworn officers: crime skyrocketed.

Local and national commentators with an ideological bent in opposition to the entire concept of police generally point to one study when they argue there is no relationship between police staffing and crime reduction: the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment more than 40 years ago. We will comment on that study some other time, but for now, it should suffice to say that the lead author of that study has stated repeatedly that his Kansas City study means no such thing.

The other argument we hear is that police are too expensive, their overtime is too high, or they take too high a proportion of the city budget. But there is no major difference between police salaries in Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose or BART, and part of the OPD’s attrition problem is that other departments are hiring away Oakland’s officers; those facts and a basic understanding of how labor markets work suggest to us that there is nothing off the charts about Oakland’s police salary scale. And the solution to excessive overtime costs is to employ enough officers to eliminate the need for overtime.

Our estimate is that the police share of the Measure Z proceeds will be just short of $13 million dollars per year, which will fund between 52 and 59 police officers. We’ve spent enough time reviewing the city’s budget that we know that this money will not be there for police if the measure fails. And a further loss of officers in Oakland will be devastating to public safety.

Make Oakland Better Now! Asks The Candidates: “What Will You Do If You Are Elected?”

Thanks so much to all the Oaklanders who contributed their thoughts about questions to ask Oakland’s mayoral candidates.  Your ideas came in as blog comments, as e-mails and as Facebook posts, and they were great.

We couldn’t use every question, but we used many of them, and we tried to cover every subject you suggested.  The field of candidates is now set.  We’ve sent a questionnaire to all of the 15 Mayoral candidates and another to all of the 12 City Council candidates.  Unlike most of the questionnaires candidates fill out, our questionnaires and the responses are public.  We want the public, and the press, to know what the candidates say now on the issues that matter most to Oakland.

Here is our Mayoral candidate questionnaire:


And here’s the questionnaire we sent to City Council candidates:

 

We’ve asked all candidates to respond by Thursday, September 11, and we’ll get the responses published as quickly as we can once we receive them.  So stay tuned.
(Post title corrected August 26.)

MOBN! Supports Proposed Safety Measure if City Guarantees Officer Threshold

MOBN! SUPPORTS THE PROPOSED PUBLIC SAFETY MEASURE – IF THE CITY GUARANTEES A THRESHOLD NUMBER OF OFFICERS

Tuesday night, Oakland’s City Council has a very big agenda (and will be holding a very long meeting). But the most critical item on that agenda is a resolution to place a public safety and services ballot on this November’s election, to take effect in January when Measure Y expires.

As most readers of Oaktalk know, Measure Y was passed ten years ago, and provides for a parcel tax and parking tax that provide $22 million for “problem solving officers,” violence prevention programs and fire funding. We could provide a litany of issues and problems with Measure Y, but will save this for another day. Our questions have been (1) what would happen without the $22 million?, (2) what would the voters be willing to do?, and (3) what politically acceptable solutions were there to solve the biggest problems with Measure Y.

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Oakland’s Annual Budget Deliberations Start – Can Oakland Finally Establish A Rainy Day Fund?

In 1996, Oakland established financial policies intended to bring sound financial practices to the City’s budgeting process.  Specifically, the policies required the City to maintain a reserve against disasters of 7.5% of the general purpose fund.  The policies also were designed to avoid the spending of one-time revenues on recurring expenses.  Why?  Because ongoing expenses are just that – ongoing. When they come due again the next year, one-time revenue won’t be there to pay for them anymore.  For this reason, Oakland’s financial policy since 1996 has limited the City’s ability to spend one-time revenues on recurring expenses without declaring a fiscal emergency.

In particular, the policy has limited the City’s ability to spend more than $40 million in Real Estate Transfer Tax (“RETT”) revenue for ongoing expenses.  This policy recognizes that the excess RETT – a percentage tax on real estate sales – is one of the most volatile and undependable revenue sources, and should be treated as one-time revenue.  Instead, under the policy, excess RETT was to be devoted to increasing reserves, paying pension obligations and repaying negative fund balances.

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