Ignacio De La Fuente announces Fruitvale Safety Initiative

So it’s about time (PDF!) that someone tried to do something about the increasing safety problems in Fruitvale:

Oakland City Council President and District 5 Council Member Ignacio De La Fuente introduced the Fruitvale Safety Project – a three-month focused effort to reduce rising crime and violence in the vibrant Fruitvale Neighborhood through improved coordination and targeting of resources. “We all have to pick priorities and my priority is increasing public safety in the Fruitvale,” said President De La Fuente.

Good for him. Watching the heartfelt testimony of the many Fruitvale residents who spoke at Tuesday’s Council meeting on the City’s response to the memorial petition submitted by the family of slain teenager Tomas Melero-Smith totally made me cry. It also made me think that as much as I love Oakland and care about environmentally responsible land use and public transit, if I had teenagers I would pack my things and buy a SUV and move my family to like, Walnut Creek or something in a heartbeat. When I shared this sentiment with some friends, they all responded with variations on the idea I was being ridiculous, and that given my education and career, I wouldn’t be in the position of these people in the first place, and could protect my spawn with good parenting. Maybe so, maybe not. But you shouldn’t have to live in constant terror of what might to happen to your child just because you’re poor and don’t speak English. And while I’m totally willing to admit that I have a tendency to overreact to this sort of thing and get kind of melodramatic (see above), the fact remains that the current situation is beyond unacceptable.

So clearly something needs to be done. And this part sounds good:

An action team including President De La Fuente and his staff, the police department, merchants, and non-profits will meet bi-weekly in the target area to problem-solve and track results, with an emphasis on gang and prostitution activity. “It’s one thing to sit in City Hall and allocate resources and making policy. It’s another thing to be on the ground using those resources to attack known problems,” said Council President De La Fuente.

And I really like this part:

The District 5 office is also scheduling educational events including gang prevention parenting classes and self-defense training.

But then I keep reading the press release and see this part:

The Fruitvale Safety Project will take advantage of Measure Y violence prevention resources now available as well as $575,000 the City Council authorized this week for additional street outreach workers. These new workers are to be hired to work in the Latino community in the Fruitvale, East Oakland and West Oakland.

and I just want to throw my hands up in the air and scream. I mean…what? What’s that about the street outreach workers? If you just read this, you might think, as Dierde Strickland-Meade did, that the City was actually planning on hiring street outreach workers itself and having Lenore Anderson run the program. No. We’re issuing a vague RFP, and I certainly didn’t hear anything about Fruitvale during any of the discussions of the proposal that I watched. (For the record, I didn’t catch the discussion of this on Tuesday, so they must have added it then? When they got to the abortion thing and their 200 speakers, I decided to check out and go play some illegal pinball.) Lenore Anderson just kept talking about only targeting the two highest crime beats, 6x and 36x, neither of which are in Fruitvale. And as desperately as Fruitvale needs attention, we keep being told that this RFP is so necessary right now because it will provide tightly focused outreach, and if that’s the case, then doesn’t spreading it out even more sort of diminish that benefit? And if this is a three-month project, as the press release says at the very beginning, and we’ve heard repeated testimony that the first of these new outreach workers might hit the streets as early as April, how does that work? And all the Measure Y violence prevention money for this year is already spoken for. Those allocations were made last June, so what does that line even mean? We just spent our entire reserve on the street outreach thing! Are we changing the programs we funded? Are you even allowed to do that? Has anyone thought this through? Ugh!


Update: The Trib has a story about this today, but if you’re expecting it to answer any questions, don’t even bother reading it. It’s even worse than the press release, somehow implying that the Council approved an expenditure of $575,000 on Tuesday specifically to fund this initiative. In fact, the author didn’t even manage to correctly copy information from the press release. Somehow, the line “In only two police beats (20X and 23X) there have been 18 homicides and 512 robberies reported since the beginning of 2006.” turned into “There have been 18 homicides and 512 robberies reported this year.”

3 thoughts on “Ignacio De La Fuente announces Fruitvale Safety Initiative

  1. Kevin Cook

    De La Fuente certainly is the most credible voice for public safety in this town. We all remember him leading the pickets against Cary Verse upon his release–truly courageous stuff. I think that Ignacio himself should speak to some of those parenting classes. No one knows more about how to keep kids out of trouble than Nacho.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    Good point, Kevin. Since De La Fuente has made mistakes in the past and has family problems, he should just abandon all pretense of caring about the people he represents, throw his hands up in the air, and leave all the crime-reduction efforts to the other Councilmembers and the Mayor, who are of course perfect human beings and legislators in every way.

  3. Charles Pine

    De La Fuente has not addressed the need for at least 1,100 police officers, up from 700 or so today, but when there is a councilmember committed to this priority, I hope De La Fuente will work with him.