The city of Oakland has suffered a spate of violence recently, including seven people killed in just seven days earlier this month. We’ll discuss ways to combat the violence with Oakland’s police chief, residents, experts and listeners. How is the city doing at keeping residents safe?

Tackling Violence in Oakland 19 July,2012forum

Junious Williams Jr., CEO of the Urban Strategies Council, which works to support youth, family and community development as a means of building healthy, vibrant communities
Howard Jordan, chief of the Oakland Police Department
Tammerlin Drummond, columnist for The Oakland Tribune
Brenda Grisham, executive director of the Christopher Lavell Jones Foundation, a foundation in honor of her son who was killed in 2010 in Oakland

  • Chemist150

    I lived in Oakland for 8+ years and now live in a much better area.  I was woke up by gun shots, barking dogs (constantly) saw people pushing bodies on grocery carts at 3am, had a stun gun pulled on me, surround by 4 6+ foot tall thugs and threatend by my neighbor at 2am when I confronted them about lound music…

    One thing that I’d suggest focusing on is reducing environmental stress in neighborhoods.  Focus on loud bass music, barking dogs, and other environmental stesses etc.  Even if it’s within “allowed” time frames, remind people to be aware their actions influence others stress.

    Being from the country and moving to a dense urban area, I’ve notice that those that grow up in dense urban environments have a higher level of sociopathic behavior and acceptance.  They are less likely to consider that their music is keeping someone awake that needs to work 3 shift, or that their dog is a naturally a social pack animal with large territories and locking them in the back yard alone is neglect.

    Focus on reducing peoples stress and be seen doing it in a professional and proactive manner.

    • Chemist150

      I’d like to point out that issues like this can affect people from early on without them knowing it because it’s their natural environement.  Perhaps they develop rage issues because they’re not sleeping properly because of dogs.  Then school goes bad, they get frustrated and this is a systemic problem. 

      Reducing environmental stress is attacking a root issue that begets the rest.

  • Truth please

    Michael,I am disappointed in your statement. It is so politically correct, and unscientific. You said “there are too many guns out there”. Where did you get this information from? Can you explain the fact that violent crime figures are down this year again, and have been declining for several decades? This has happened while firearm ownership has increased over the last ten years. At least Try to have some foundation for your comments because incorrect comments like this lead others to believe a false premise. There are probably just as many firearms in Redding without the killing. You might study this and face up to the real cause sometime.Sincerely,
    Truth be told please

  • Guest

    Oakland Hills Resident – 

    Hire more cops and its fine to raise my taxes.  The fundamental role of government is provide safety.  

    Finally, Occupy Oakland – stay out of our City.  Go to Piedmont instead, that’s where the 1% live!

  • Tina

    Crime is often merely a symtom of social economic problems.  If Oakland, especially the high-crime area would start more employment programs, greater educational opportunities, crime will go down.  We can treat symtoms, but the illness will never improve because we’re not treating the root-cause…

    • Livegreen

      Again, we already have social programs through Measure Y & OFCY. Programs prepare for employment, but they don’t actually employ. Until businesses locate to Oakland, the jobs won’t come.  & that won’t happen until Oakland is safer.

    • oaktown_dimond

      there needs to be greater educational opportunities when the drop out rate for african americans in oakland is over 55%… AND the education is FREE?

      bottom line. these kids have no parental guidance (and more than a few of the parents are teaching the kids illicit activities). these kids are uneducated, don’t want to be educated, are angry and LIKE TO ROB AND KILL PEOPLE.

  • Andrea Waterstreet

    I really like what I’m hearing from Brenda Grisham about parents taking REAL responsibility for what some of their kids are doing on the street.  The kind of violence that’s happening is horrific–something I’d expect in Sarajevo or Sierra Leone, and the simple message of taking responsibility and stop making it everybody else’s problem is too often shouting down in the black community.  I’m reminded of Bill Cosby years ago saying some very similar things and being absolutely vilified. Thank you, Brenda Grisham!

    • Brendagrisham

      You are welcome and God Bless you. you are welcome to read more about Chris and what we are doing in the community. http://www.cljcenter.com

  • shs

    Everyone should read “American Babylon” by Robert Self. It is an urban history of Oakland which can put these discussions of violence and poverty into a longer term structural framework. Ultimately, violence comes from somewhere- usually poverty, inequality, and a feeling of powerlessness.

  • Guest

    As an Oakland resident that lives above the flatlands, I’m still bitter than the Police Union was unable to make any compensation concessions at a time when the rest of us lost  jobs, took pay cuts, or had to reduce hours due to the poor economy.  And then we are told not to expect services unless lives are in danger and that reports must be filed on-line because there isn’t staff to respond.  We support Oakland by paying a significant amount of taxes (property, business, sales, etc.) and can’t rely on the City for services.  I would like to see the Police Union compromise to accommodate the City’s budget issues so they can provide more thorough, preventative, and responsive service to the flatlines while not ignoring the rest of us.   

    • Livegreen00

      You’re wrong, the Union has compromised and donates 9% to its pensions.

      If you don’t think that’s enough, you’re probably right.  But then you need to ask all City workers to pay and restore our services.

  • Cephusjohnson

    Oscar Grant Uncle Cephus Johnson, A Mobilization of Mothers, MOM, like MADD Mother against Drunk driver, will bring national attention to this issue of Black on Black and Police Killing. Since the eariy 2000’s Balck on Black murder has been averaging 8,000-9000 per year or a average of 22-25 per day

  • Aaron

    I live and work in East Oakland.  I’m very used to hearing outsiders talking about how we need more social programs, more opportunities for ex cons to have jobs, etc.  It’s really easy for people on the outside to preach from their high chair, but the reality is different.

    Oakland already has more feel good programs than most cities.  Measure Y has been paying for many of these.  There are after school programs for kids, programs like Youth Uprising where kids can make Hyphy videos, and so on.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called the police to report gun fire.  I’ve been told by the police many times that they are short staffed and they don’t have the resources to send anyone, even when I’ve told them the specifics of who had the gun, and what corner he’s now standing on.

    It’s clear that no amount of opportunities will give criminals jobs that will allow them to make as much as they can with illegal behavior.  Neither will it give them the ego boost that they get from carrying a gun and terrorizing their neighborhood.

    Anyone who lives in Oakland, who has had crime happen around them knows that there is a severe lack of police.  I refuse to believe that the existing police are just sitting around ignoring calls and eating donuts just so they can play a political game of punishing politicians.  By capita, Oakland has half the police force of most cities such as San Jose or San Francisco.

    No, I do not need to hear more professors who live in very nice houses and safe neighborhoods preach from hundreds of miles away about how they know what is better for us than the people who live here.

    No, the people of Oakland know there are more than enough social programs, and no, they are not working.  They are failing because there are to many criminals, too many guns, too many “opportunities” for criminals to get away with their crimes and do anything they want.

    Oakland needs more police, and needs to get more guns and more criminals off the street.  That’s the bottom line.  This is the reality of living in Oakland.

    • Livegreen

      Thank you Aaron.  It’s weird how many people Forum let’s speak about Oakland’s crime problem, who don’t even live here.  

      The caller from Berkeley got his facts wrong, & the caller from New Mexico talked generally about the evils of the prison industry complex without knowing a) anything about Oakland; b) that OPD doesn’t have enough staff to investigate many murders, ANY of the robberies & burglaries, OR to do DNA & finger print analysis of the murders & rapes that have already been tested!If you want less Law Enforcement, we’ve already got it here.  The results are plain to see.  You want anything worse, go try your social experiments in your own backyard.

      Forum did a good job with the guest speakers & Michael’s references to most (if not all) of Oakland’s problems.  

      Forum did NOT do a good job screening callers from other cities who claimed to know solutions without knowing the very real problems.

    • Hfg

       Candid and true – you should run for office in Oakland! The City’s leadership (and in turn commitment to the OPD) sure could use a different approach, mindset, resources, and accountability.  The DNA lab backlog was another shameful expose recently….Oakland is going to suffer a mass exodus of people who can afford to move elsewhere and this will only compound the problem as tax revenues drop….

  • Ellis


    This is a national tragedy due to
    chronic underfunding of cities by state and national governments.
    Illegal drugs, and guns are pumped in and jobs are taken out. We have
    weak governments visa-vi corporations. The off-shoring of jobs has
    led to economic devastation to the most politically weak populations.
    Why can’t Apple make Ipads-Iphones in Oakland? The second major
    dynamic is a dysfunctional tax structure that leaves cities and
    states underfunded. If you look at the nature of the crimes in
    Oakland, they are almost all economically driven.

    The Leaders in Oakland need to look at
    the Spanish Mondragon Corporation to create empoyment for themselves!

  • Hugh

    Forum has had David Kennedy on in the past.  In that program, in response to a caller challenging using Police as part of the answer, Kennedy responded that every program that has worked has always included the Police.
    Furthermore in Oakland we have cut Police while preserving Measure Y social programs that have NOT been cut.  We HAVE the social services.  We DON’T have the nationally recognized staffing of Police Officers.

    If the high crime and murder rate don’t convince you we need more Officers to implement Kennedy’s wrap around program Operation Ceasefire (which includes both social service & police), maybe a city-by-city comparison to some of the Cities where Kennedy’s programs have been successfully implemented will:Boston has 1 Officer for every 308 citizens (2,094 Officers for a Pop.644,064);Chicago has 1 Officer for every 226 citizens (12,515 Officers for Pop.2,833,649);Cincinnati has 1 Officer for every 305 citizens (1,090 Officers for Pop.332,365).I added:Baltimore has 1 Officer for every 216 citizens (2,960 Officers for Pop.639,929);Then there’s Oakland:1 Officer for every 608 citizens (674 Officers for Pop.409,723).
    HALF TO A THIRD OF THE OFFICERS IN THESE OTHER CITIES.The # of Officers is not the only factor. But you need this AND other thingslike effective programs to work with our neediest citizens (that Kennedyadvocates for & I supported when I voted for Measure Y).As Kennedy advocates, we need BOTH in sufficient quantity to have effective”push AND pull” (to also quote Councilmember Kernighan). 

    Right now both our high crime rate & the #’s from cities in Kennedy’s experience show WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH OFFICERS.

  • Hugh

    Brenda, I remember the news about Christopher’s murder.  Bless him, & bless you for the hard work you’re doing in his name.  

    I live in the foothills (the “betweens”) but am close enough to the Flats to know most Flatland residents, most families & most kids are good, hard working people.  

    We’ve just got to get the word out that the criminals & gang bangers aren’t the ones offering the solutions, & aren’t the victims.  Once we reach the “tipping point” the kids on the cusp will be drawn back from the edge.  When that happens crime will decrease, businesses will stay & even relocate to Oakland, & crime will decrease even more.  Like what happened in NYC.

    Social programs + Police + jobs = solution.

    Now it’s up to the City Council to act, & find a way to pay for a fully staffed OPD.

    • Brendagrisham

      Thanks Hugh and you are absolutely right the message being sent to the people is it’s all good. They aren’t held responsible for their actions they think its all good in the hood. If they could be shown we are not playing some of them may think twice some are just lost and some are looking for a way out.
       God Bless you

  • Sy2502

    I really question the assertion about the problem being guns and the fact young people don’t know how lethal they are. Seriously? Young people in Oakland don’t know a gun is a deadly weapon? Please!!! The folks who get into shootings are criminals who probably already obtained those guns illegally. And if we made a law to ban all guns in Oakland, are we really so naive to believe these gangsters and criminals will line up nicely in front of Oakland PD to relinquish their guns? They have no problem breaking every other law in the book, does anyone think they’ll have a problem breaking gun laws? 

  • Kevin Lee Thomason

    I liked what Tammerlin said about the lifers at San Quentin. That is what we say down here as well. EXACT SAME THING!

    It is a *thinking issue,* on both ends. Behavior will not change until people change how they think, and change comes FROM the communities. Change will NOT come from OUTSIDE of our communities.

    It never has, and never will. We can do a million social programs, and they will not stick, unless they are *from* the communities.

    In my opinion, current leadership at city hall PREVENTS us from doing what we need to do. Our leaders lack vision. We need to replace them. All of them.

    And we need our own vision for Oakland, and not something “flown in” from NYC, from Boston, or from some theorist who has never even set foot here. 

    I am saying all of this as an attorney, as a civil rights activist, and as a long time resident of the deepest part of East Oakland.
    Proverbs 29:18New International Version (NIV)
    18 Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint;    but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.

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