Chief Guillermo Cespedes Shares Strategy for Department of Violence Prevention

Guillermo Cespedes

Make Oakland Better Now consulted with Chief Guillermo Cespedes concerning his plans for the Department of Violence Prevention (DVP) and how to stem violent crime in Oakland. Cespedes described a Violence Prevention and Intervention Strategy that combines a public health and community-driven approach. This plan, which we fully support, is an important step towards reducing Oakland’s violent crime. Read our summary below:

Community-Driven Results
If Oakland is going to prevent violent crime, it will need many voices, leaders, and resources. The following elements guide the concept of a community-driven model:

  • Communities identify the specific problems and participate in the solutions applied to that problem.
  • Communities are provided capacity building tools to identify problems and implement solutions.
  • All members of the community are considered legitimate stakeholders, including those who have been victims and/or perpetrators of violence.
  • All community-centered strategies focus on behavior, not identity.

Violence as a Public Health Issue
In general terms, Chief Cespedes describes the the public health approach to violent crime as one that views violence as a contagious disease that can be stopped by providing effective “medicine” (concentrated programming) at individual, family, peer, school and community levels. This approach is most effective when the medicine is applied in specific places, with specific populations, during the times that the disease is most acute.

The public health approach is comprised of the following elements:

  • Paying attention to underlying risk factors that create and reinforce violence in specific communities;
  • Interventions at the individual, family, peer group, school and community level;
  • An emphasis on specific populations at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of risk. (More on this subject below)
  • Evidence-informed interventions that examine specific people, places, months of the year, days of the week, and times of the day.

Focus Populations
Chief Cespedes described the specific geographic areas that have a documented level of violence. These spots can be as small as four square miles. Populations within these areas will receive four types of services simultaneously:

  1. Primary prevention services. These are for community members between the ages of 8 and 17 years of age who live in high-risk areas but are not involved in delinquent behaviors. This approach, which includes youth development services, can be compared to providing the necessary preventive medicine protects against the disease of violence before it starts.
  2. Secondary prevention services. This involves individual and family-based services for community members between the ages of 8 and 17 years of age who are involved in relatively low-level delinquent activities. (Family, in this context, is inclusive of whatever structure is present, rather than the idealized two-parent family.) The goal is to prevent this population from escalating involvement in violence, thus becoming more “contaminated.”
  3. Tertiary level services. This intervention involves individual and family services for justice involved community members between the ages of 8 and 30 years of age.
  4. Relational policing. In addition, the DVP will provide consultation on “relational policing” activities, defined as those actions aimed at establishing a non-transactional relationship between police and community in which the handcuffs are the last, as opposed to the first, resort. (The DVP does not implement relational policing activities, only consultation.)

Changing Community Norms
In addition to the focused interventions directed at different populations, the DVP’s public health and community-driven approach seeks to change community norms through campaigns and macro-level school and community-based interventions.

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Chief Cespedes has guided successful implementation of this Public Health / Community-Driven Approach in Los Angeles* and has provided consultation on the public health model to cities through Central America, the Caribbean, and in North Africa. Addressing the violence in this targeted way, Cespedes notes, is the most effective way of inoculating the entire city against a city-wide violence epidemic.

Oakland has much to do. We are glad to see that homicide and violent crime have gone down over the past five years. But still, in 2019, homicide was up 12% over the year before, and violent crime was up 5% over the year before. There is much to be done. But Chief Cespedes’ plan is a big part of it, and we support him.

*The Los Angeles implementation reduced 9 categories of part one crime including homicides by almost 50%. LA has sustained these reductions as it has completed 10 consecutive years with less than 300 homicides for a city with 4 million residents.

 

 

The Fair Chance Housing Ordinance Goes Before Council Tonight

At tonight’s meeting, starting at 5:00 p.m., City Council will be considering the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, supported last week unanimously at a Special Community and Economic Development Committee meeting, and on the Consent Calendar for tonight’s agenda. Make Oakland Better Now! long ago agreed to support this measure, modeled after the Fair Chance Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2018, a California law that generally prohibits employers with five or more employees from asking about a conviction history before making an offer.

This type of law, also known as a “Ban the Box” law, would be applied to housing, and remove some barriers for formerly incarcerated individuals to access housing.

Here, we share an in-depth interview published on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative website from May 2019 with one of the leaders, Make Oakland Better Now! Committee of 50 member John Jones III.

Make Oakland Better Now! Endorses Measure Q

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On March 3, vote YES on Measure Q.
Join the
campaign at its kickoff event this Saturday.

Measure Q is a March 3 ballot tax measure, designed to generate revenue to be used for city parks improvement, homelessness services and clean water. The Make Oakland Better Now! board has voted to endorse it, and urges Oaklanders to support it. We join a wide coalition in support of this measure. Among other organizations, it is supported by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club, SF Bay Chapter, League of Women Voters of Oakland, Outdoor Afro and Oakland Tenants Union. Continue reading

Oakland City Council’s Parcel Tax to Improve Funding for City Parks, Litter Reduction, and Homelessness Support

(image source: Oakland Homeless Response)

On November 14, Oakland’s City Council passed a resolution to submit a parcel tax to voters on the March 3, 2020 primary ballot.  The amount of the tax will vary depending on forms and usage of real property, but residential property would be taxed at rates of $148 per single-family residential parcel and $101.08 per residential unit for multiple residential parcels with a 50% reduction for affordable housing projects, and for non-residential units, a rate based on frontage, square footage and building area. (Read the Chronicle’s recent article on the parcel tax here, and East Bay Express’ coverage here.) Continue reading

Meet Guillermo Cespedes, Oakland’s New Chief of Violence Prevention


For several years now, Make Oakland Better Now! has urged elected officials to adopt and implement a comprehensive public safety plan, involving coordinated activities from every city department – from police to parks and recreation and more – playing a role in violent crime prevention.

In 2013 the City’s police consultant, Robert Wasserman, argued for this in a report titled, “Zeroing Out Crime.” Mr. Wasserman wrote, “Every agency must see itself as part of the crime solution and coordinate initiatives.” He urged regular meetings of heads of every department with any responsibility for crime reduction.

While some of Oakland’s elected officials have agreed, they have not been able to coordinate adoption or implementation of such a policy.

A new City leader is taking up the work of making this finally happen, and we are hopeful. In October, three of our board members were pleased to meet with Guillermo Cespedes, the first Chief of Oakland’s new Violence Prevention Department, who assumed that position on September 23. He said at the start of his tenure, “I am honored and very excited to return to Oakland to join professional colleagues, community advocates and elected officials in building a balanced comprehensive violence prevention strategy.” Continue reading

Ten Questions for Darlene Flynn, Oakland’s Director of Race & Equity

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In 2016, Oakland formed its Department of Race & Equity, and recruited Darlene Flynn as its Director. Last month, Carrie Crespo-Dixon, one of Make Oakland Better Now!’s board members, sat down with Ms. Flynn to talk about taking on the unprecedented role of leading this department. Continue reading

Visit Make Oakland Better Now! at the Art + Soul Festival

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The annual Art + Soul Festival is this Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m. in downtown Oakland. It’s a really exciting weekend featuring local organizations, artists, food and musicians. This year’s lineup includes Fantastic Negrito, Kev Choice, Jennifer Johns, Estelle, West Coast Blues Society, Oaktown Jazz Workshop, and a special tribute to the tragically departed drummer Victor McElhaney. The weekend is a don’t-miss event.

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Make Oakland Better Now! will have a table there all weekend. We’ll be at booth 267 (on Clay Street by City Center). Come visit us! Board members will be there ready to talk to people about our organization’s history, advocacy positions, and future. We’ll have hand-outs telling newcomers about MOBN!

We’ll also be doing some fundraising for the projects we have lined up, so we hope to see you there. If you can’t make it, you can still donate here by clicking the “Donate” button below. Thanks for your support and we’re so excited to celebrate with The Town.


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What’s in the New “Oakland Together” Budget?


(This is a post in our Budget Bits series, following Oakland’s mid-cycle budget policy and process. Read our previous updates: post one, two, three, and four.)

On June 24th, the City Council unanimously adopted its two-year, $3.29 billion budget. (The full budget document can be read here.) The final adoption reflected a combination of the Mayor’s Proposed Budget and augmented by $44.4 million in amendments proposed in the “Oakland Together Proposal,” which was a combination of amendments by numerous council Members. The Mayor’s Proposed Budget included the funding needed to continue many necessary city services and required funding for continuing obligations such as bond payments, retirement and healthcare. The Council amendments added increased services in a number of critical areas. 

Make Oakland Better Now! believes that many of the service issues presented in both the Mayor’s proposed budget and in the adopted budget are critical. However, in the Adopted Budget, the Council took little action to significantly pay down our City’s long-term unfunded liabilities of $2.7 billion nor did it significantly increase the protections in the Rainy-Day Fund. Oakland also has unfunded Capital projects of $2 billion.

We are now in longest positive economic surge since WWII. However, there have been numerous indications that economic conditions may change during the period of this two-year budget. How will Oakland respond? Continue reading

Council President Kaplan’s Budget: Our Response

Oakland Budget
Tonight, at a special meeting of the City Council, the Council will receive the recommended amendments to the Mayor’s proposed budget from City Council President Rebecca Kaplan (you can read the budget here).  Oakland’s Finance Department issued its review of President Kaplan’s budget, urging Council to reject the budget calling it “unbalanced” and “illegal with respect to provisions of the City Charter, City ordinances, ballot measures, and State law. ”

(Read recent coverage on the two budgets from The San Francisco Chronicle and the East Bay Times.)

Debate over budget priorities and changes will continue. Make Oakland Better Now! sent a letter to City Council (available here) and urged them to consider the following issues concerning President Kaplan’s proposed budget changes: Continue reading

Oakland’s Proposed Budget: Our Recommendations

(This is a post in our Budget Bits series, following Oakland’s mid-cycle budget policy and process. Read our previous updates here and here.)

The Oakland City Budget is now in the process of being reviewed by the Council. At a special meeting on June 10th, the Council will receive the recommended changes to the proposed Budget from Council President Rebecca Kaplan. It will also receive the recommendations from the Budget Advisory Commission.

Oakland is facing significant budget challenges and pressures. With the long and short term in mind, we reviewed the Mayor’s proposed budget, the priorities and adjustments. Our key findings and recommendations our outlined below.

Police Department

For years, we have recommended and supported major changes to the Police Department. It is important to support Ceasefire, the accountability programs instituted by the Monitor, and the Police Commission. The Proposed Budget does this and we fully support it. The Budget also includes $475,000 for the ShotSpotter program, which we support.

Parks and Street Lights

The Landscape and Lighting District (LLAD) was created 30 years ago to fund lighting and parks, but it did not include an inflation factor. As a result, these services are woefully underfunded. The budget has a one-time, fix which we support. But we strongly recommend the Council take steps to place a measure on the March Primary Ballot (yes, it’s in March) to fix this problem.

Fire Safety 

The Proposed budget adds 11 new positions to the Fire Prevention Bureau – covered by fees – to modernize and augment Fire Inspections, Vegetation Management, and Fire Plan Check reviews, and meet the Bureau’s operational needs to improve public safety outcomes. It also invests $1.1 million in one-time funding each year for Wildfire Prevention (total of $2.2 million) and authorizes $100,000 each year ($200,000 total) for implementation of the City’s Vegetation Management Plan. MOBN! supports this proposal and also recommends the Council consider re-submitting the lapsed tax funding for wildfire services.

Homelessness

The Proposed Budget provides $12 million in grant funding for numerous homeless services, in the second year it adds $3.8 million from the newly established Vacancy Tax, and adds staff for the newly created (by Measure W) Commission on Homelessness. It is also expected these funds will be augmented by new appropriations from the state.

MOBN! supports this budget item and further recommends that the County of Alameda become a more active and cooperative participant in addressing homelessness. We also support the creation of a new position, a person who would oversee all of the services that Oakland provides to the homeless, and who would work with the State and County to coordinate efforts and funding.

Capital Investments

As a result of the passage of Measure KK, which MOBN! strongly supported, the budget contains $110.6 million for transportation related infrastructure, including$75.8 for street paving and $30 million for affordable and transitional housing. This is in addition to $32.68 million authorized in the 2017-19 adopted budget. MOBN! supports these actions.

Fiscal Health

The Budget makes continued progress on financial stability by reducing the use of one-time revenues for ongoing expenses and continues paying down negative fund balances pursuant to Council approved policies. MOBN supports this action.

The Proposed budget also implements the Administration proposed and Council approved plan to create long-term funding for the underfunded Other Public Employee Benefits (OPEB) program, which funds healthcare benefits for retired employees. This is a great first step, but the Administration and Council must continue to review and seek solutions to the ever-increasing pension obligation of PERS. No clear solution has been identified except for the potential revenues Split Role Initiative, which is now scheduled for the 2020 General Election ballot. We will have more on this as the policy develops.

 

We urge all members of MOBN! and interested Oaklanders to weigh in on the 2019-21 Budget! Hearings are scheduled on June 10th, June 18th, and if needed, June 25th. Make sure you’re represented in this process.