4. We Need to Ameliorate the Root Causes of Crime

The Problem.

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.

The Solution:

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

The Problem:

  1. Poverty is at the root of much of Oakland’s crime, with a growing gap in the income levels of poor and wealthy individuals in the town, a stubborn unemployment problem that, while better than during the recession, still means that Oakland’s recovery of jobs lags behind the pace for jobs growth of other cities in our region—including most of Oakland’s neighbors. Poverty also means that people left in the poorest parts of town are those who lack social mobility, and any capacity to move away from poor schools, or run-down neighborhoods. Many of those in this situation are people of color, and it should be of little surprise that the truancy and eventual dropout rates for the young people in these same populations is exceedingly high. Without education, and little opportunity for social mobility, crime becomes an option for some as an alternative to their situations.
  2. Oakland is the county seat for Alameda County, and as such is also the location for most re-entry felons. Nevertheless, the city is not fully equipped to handle the flow of formerly incarcerated prisoners, as they attempt to transition back to normal life in Oakland. There is no one-stop center in East Oakland or in the downtown that combines probation and parole, with other wrap-around services including jobs training, wellness, psychological therapy and counseling, or even physical fitness. As such, many of those who re-enter are at great risk for recidivism.

The Solution

It is no coincidence that poverty, unemployment and poor education coalesce in West and East Oakland—areas of our city where violent crime is highest. These problems interrelate—and a solution for crime must involve intentional and thoughtful coordination of efforts to address poverty, unemployment and education. To that end, Oakland must commit to the following examples (again, these are for illustration and not intended to be exhaustive on the subject) of measures for the long term:

  • In cooperation with OUSD, the city target at risk youth who are candidates for crime, gangs, truancy, drop outs—with special attention to children without fathers, as well as foster kids. We must identify populations and begin an intentional program of intervention, aimed at keeping children in school, making sure life and learning skills are acquired and retained throughout K-8, so that they can be applied for 9-12th grade. This will be to address truancy and dropouts. Also, longer school days with safety offered by the city to see children home safely after school. Afternoon programs should include extra-curricular activities AND completion of homework before students go home. Additionally, commit to beta testing vocational training program for industrial level certification on computer tech and for call center service with “Stride” program. If successful, roll out in other high schools, with eye towards underperforming high schools.
  • Go well beyond the Mayor’s summer jobs program, and attract new employers to Oakland (e.g., in retail) who will offer employment opportunities for first jobs to young people throughout the year.
  • In cooperation with the Trades Unions, continue to identify and create opportunities for apprenticeships—while also being honest with young and older applicants that the path to journeyman status can be up to four years and involve tremendous commitment, some travel—and patience. Condition expectations for the long haul.
  • Identify and support local businesses and contractors who are also willing to apprentice new workers—but who lack access to lines of credit from banks. The inability to qualify for credit means that many smaller operators cannot afford to pay apprentices or workers. The city may investigate seeking special relationships with banks willing to advance a LOC, or perhaps in limited instances the city may act as a co-signatory. Additionally, the city should mandate in future public projects that main contractors must pay their sub-contractors (often times small local contractors who might apprentice people) in a timely manner of not more than one week after the city pays them. This too would keep smaller contractors/businesses more liquid and able to sustain a larger work force between projects.