It’s palpable. Oakland’s promise is becoming real; but there’s one major challenge holding us back: public safety. There’s no way to sugar coat the problem. It is possible to solve it. Other communities with fewer resources and less promise have done it. So can we. Our future depends on it.
Even though addressing the root causes of crime, like poverty, will take time, there are things we can do right away to make Oakland safer. Simply put, we need to hire more cops, improve response times, get more police on our streets, and develop community crime prevention strategies that put criminals on notice that they will be caught.
As your next mayor, I promise to carry out the plan outlined below. I’ve given it a lot of thought, incorporated lessons learned from what has and has not worked both in Oakland and elsewhere, and included only strategies that we can afford. If you click the “Read more…” links, you can learn more about the plan details.
Staff within the Oakland Police Department (OPD) currently numbers in the low 600s; however, city consultant Bill Bratton said in August 2013 that adequate staffing for our city needs to be 900 plus. Of the 600 within OPD, there are only 235 police officers available to patrol our city of over 400,000 at any given time. To make matters worse, we have 153 officers approaching retirement age (50 years old) with two-thirds of those eligible to retire beginning in 2016. Oakland’s current police staffing level of about 15 officers/10,000 residents is about half of San Francisco’s and a third of New Orleans.
In order to increase police staffing, and especially patrol officers, we need more money and more “academies” to train new officers. As the new officers are trained and hired, we need plans in place to boost morale and retain qualified staffing at the 900-1000 person level.
Immediate Action Steps –
- Hold three academies a year
- Add approximately 50 officers/year net of attrition and achieve 300 new officers within 6 years
- Retain existing officers
- Contain costs for new officers
- Pay for the new officers by selling surplus public lands, growing existing tax bases, expanding business license taxes on new businesses, and collecting hotel taxes on newly built rooms.
Our City leaders have not given proper direction to the OPD. Our police officers have been pushed and pulled into places and programs that are both expensive and ineffective. Examples include: The Mayor’s 100 Block Initiative, temporary use of law enforcement officials from other jurisdictions, and squandering of Measure Y funding. Worst of all, we have a police department that is externally controlled by a federal judge and overseen by a monitor. Their objective is compliance with a negotiated settlement agreement (NSA): the department’s objective is to provide public safety for Oakland.
We need city leaders who will lead. We need to allocate money into practices and programs that produce results. We need oversight for public safety spending. We need regular patrols in all parts of our city. We need officers reestablishing relationships with our citizens.
Immediate Action Steps –
- Rebuild OPD staffing to institute regular patrols to all parts of the city, within the five geographic districts
- Get officers out of cars and walking within districts, in order to reestablish relationships with citizens
- All officers will practice constitutional policing—this means they will always and at all times respect the constitutional rights of every citizen, and always and at every time treat everyone they encounter equally and fairly
- Recommit funding to programs that work to achieve results in reducing violence, violent crime, and other forms of crime, e.g., mentoring programs
- Provide city funding for programs based on outcomes—meaning that once desired outcomes for each program are identified (e.g., reducing violent crime), the program will be evaluated on its ability to produce the desired outcome
Oakland currently has specific crimes that need special attention, including: child trafficking for prostitution, illegal dumping, and sideshows.
Child Trafficking for Prostitution. Unfortunately, parts of Oakland have become home for children who are made available for prostitution. Perhaps nothing reflects as poorly on a community as this. We need to address this problem swiftly and sternly using a three-area approach to (1) reduce the number of potential customers; (2) establish a hostile business environment for the principle beneficiaries of child prostitution; and (3) intervene, protect and rehabilitate the young victims,
Illegal Dumping. This is a serious problem in Oakland because it presents health hazards, downgrades property values and degrades community pride. It is a low priority for police response because it does not involve violent crime or use of a gun. Proposed solutions include: property seizure and impoundment for any vehicle caught dumping and heavy fines and fees for haulers who dump illegally and pocket city dump fees.
Sideshows. These unauthorized events present sizable challenges for business owners, especially in East Oakland near the Coliseum, and for residents in both East and West Oakland. Solutions include: creating a special unit within OPD that monitors social media announcing the shows, and seizure and impounding participating vehicles.Read more
Poverty is at the root of much of Oakland’s crime. We, like the nation, have a growing gap in the income levels of poor and wealthy individuals in our town and a stubborn unemployment problem. We also have residents who lack social mobility, and are unable to move away from poor schools, or run-down neighborhoods. In addition, Oakland is Alameda county’s seat and is the primary place for re-entry felons.
A long term solution for crime in Oakland must involve intentional and thoughtful coordination of efforts to address poverty, unemployment and education.
Examples of Existing Programs That Work –
- Oakland School District programs such as at-risk youth intervention, truancy prevention, after-school learning, and longer school days.
- Union Trade Apprenticeships
- Working with local businesses to increase apprenticeships and access to lines of credit for disadvantaged contractors
- Local, year-around jobs for youth
Oakland’s crime rate has remained high despite years of spending and talk. The first step in increasing public safety is honest talk about the problem, solutions that work and solutions that don’t work. The next step is to have a city leader who is committed to change, and a willingness to roll up his or her sleeves to do the hard work. Finally, we need a plan that we can afford.
As your Mayor, I will carry out this plan through partnership with the City Council, and the city departments. I will also lead by building consensus among members of the public, through interaction with news media—and by engaging the business and non-profit community about the necessity to prioritize Public Safety. Finally, I will only implement components of the plan if and only if they show results, and when and only when we can pay for them.Read more