It doesn’t have to be this bad. Really.

Root causes this, demographics that. Why is it that one can’t ever point out that violent crime in Oakland is inexcusably high without getting an almost immediate response about how we just can’t help it? Do most Oakland residents simply not care because they aren’t the ones getting shot? Do they really think the problem is so inevitable that they’re resigned to living with it, as long as they don’t have to think about it too much? Has the entire citizenry been infected with some kind of massive municipal version of Stockholm Syndrome by the City’s leadership, who spent the better part of 2008 telling us that crime was flat as if that were some kind of accomplishment?

There is nothing inherent about Oakland that means we have to dramatically outpace practically every other city in the entire country in terms of violent crime. Yes, there are poor people here. Yes, the prison system has problems. Yes, the parole system has problems. Yes, the public education system has problems. Yes, we do not have an abundance of readily available well-paying jobs that offer pensions and require no skills. All these things are true.

The thing is, they’re true in other cities too. Oakland is not so uniquely challenged as many people seem to think. Show your average middle-class Oakland resident numbers illustrating Oakland’s comparatively high crime rate, and you’ll usually get a response something along the lines of “Well, that’s not really representative of what Oakland is like versus anywhere else, because there’s really high crime in East and West Oakland, but the hills are really safe.” As if ghettos and uneven distribution of crime and wealth are unique to us! Newflash, folks. Other cities have bad neighborhoods too. Other cities have to deal with the same exodus of manufacturing jobs, the same broken prison systems, and the same failures of public education. Yet, somehow, almost none of them have a violent crime rate that’s even in the same ballpark as ours. Oakland had all the same problems in 2003, but somehow, the Oakland of 2003 had a fraction of the violent crime that the Oakland of 2007 had. See below, the number of violent crimes per 10,000 residents reported in Oakland in each of those years:

Those numbers in parentheses indicate Oakland’s average unemployment rate in each year, BTW.

I don’t want to dismiss Oakland’s challenges. Large swaths of our city are marked by highly concentrated poverty, persistent unemployment, and depressingly low educational attainment, largely due to a dysfunctional school system. As long as these factors remain in place, Oakland will have more violent crime than say, Virginia Beach. I get that. But it doesn’t have to be this bad. Really.

Let’s take a look at, say, Newark, New Jersey. I’ve never been to Newark, except for the airport, but I have watched Street Fight a bunch of times, and I gotta say, it doesn’t exactly look like the ritziest of towns. A dear friend of mine, an Oakland native, abandoned us for the East Coast two years ago. Shortly after he moved, he called me up to complain about how much he hated having to take the bus through Newark on his way to work, lamenting how desperately he missed his nightly rides on the 43. “Oh, come on. You’re exaggerating,” I insisted. “You used to complain about how unsafe your neighborhood was all the time here too.” “No, I’m serious, V,” he countered. “Newark makes East Oakland look like New Hampshire.”

Now, I have actually been to New Hampshire, and I suspect that the last part isn’t totally accurate. But what is true is that Newark is worse off than Oakland by pretty much every conceivable measure of poverty and demographic disadvantage. And if you’d like an example a little closer to home, let’s throw Inglewood, California into the mix. In Newark, 38.6% of households subsist on less than $25,000/year. In Inglewood, 30.5%. Oakland, 28.6%. What about education? 21.9% of Oakland’s adult population doesn’t have a high school diploma. That’s a lot. But it’s not as many as in Inglewood, where that figure is 29.9%, or in Newark, where it’s 35.4. And in pre-emptive response to those inevitable, yet extremely irritating comments that will use coded language to basically assert that black people cause crime (which, BTW, is hell of racist), African Americans comprise 32, 41.8, and 54.2 percent of the population in Oakland, Inglewood, and Newark, respectively. I could go on and on with more and more numbers, but I think you get the point.

Now, with pathologies like that, one would expect Newark and Inglewood to have a lot of violence. And you know what? Compared to most cities, they do. But they both have less than half the violent crime rate of Oakland. Less than half. The graph below illustrates the number of reported violent crimes per 10,000 residents for January-June 2008.

Lest you think that’s just some weird anomaly, let’s try again. Here’s the comparative rates for the full year of 2007.

I’m sorry, but there is just no way to excuse, explain, or justify this. It’s just plain too high.

99 thoughts on “It doesn’t have to be this bad. Really.

  1. David

    So how many cops does Newark have?

    PS I’m not sure what poster you’re responding to about being “racist” for linking black people and crime, but is it racist to simply point out the disparity in crime rates between blacks and every other ethnic group? Talk about closing your eyes.

  2. Dave Dasher

    I guess this “phenomenon” can be attributed to the policies and operational approach of former OPD chief Tucker. He was in term when these stats were boosted. I have seen information where there is strong disagreement in how former chief Tucker manages resources.

  3. Coolhand Luke

    I used to work in Inglewood and the gang problem there, and in LA generally, is on a whole other level. It’s harder to fight something as ingrained in the fabric of the city as gangs, but Oakland doesn’t have gangs in the same sense of the word. As such, violence should be less institutionalized here. Naturally there are drugs and poverty and a gang of social ills, which you delineated, but it doesn’t all add up. Apparently there is something in the water, our tolerance or our fear that allows it.

  4. caddimac24

    amazing piece. Thank you. and yes some of the things that are being tossed around freely are hell of racist. Yes, there is a problem but please people think rationally and fairly. Don’t be racist in your thinking. Remember the history that was made on Nov 4th that took all of us to make happen.

  5. Max Allstadt

    Well done with the comparisons. Still, I’d like to see another comparison: Oakland and Detroit. Equally screwed. What do they have in common?

  6. MarleenLee

    In response to this post and some of the responses to the previous post, which seemed to suggest that by focusing on the crime problem we are somehow being the city equivalent of unpatriotic, and that crime and its root causes are a national problem and we should just throw our hands up and focus on the positive, I have this to say: only by keeping the pressure on, and our community loudly saying (or screaming) “This is not acceptable!” will things ever change. In case you’ve been missing the newsflashes, there is much alarm about the anticipated demise of the Chronicle, and the importance local newspapers play in keeping the spotlight on local officials so that they held accountable. Our local paper, the Tribune, does a positively lousy job. I mean, atrocious! I can’t blame all of our city’s ills on our anemic news coverage, but I certainly think that it contributes to the overall lack of accountability and apathy.

    Look at our sorry excuse for a Mayor! Where was the in-depth critique of the JOKE of a “Public Safety Plan” that he published late last year? Where? HERE! On a blog! We must all keep the pressure on our community leaders, in every way possible, by blogging, by pointing out relevant statistical comparisons like the one above, by writing letters, by voting useless and inept politicians out of office, by rejecting insulting tax measures, by filing lawsuits, and let them know that the status quo is unacceptable.

    Will it be easy to address the problems? Of course not. But if our leaders and officials were not up for the challenge, they should have never asked for the job. The Mayor doesn’t even put in a full day at the office. The former police chief had no idea how his department worked, and openly lied to misuse our tax dollars. And that’s just the stuff I know about! (Oh, and I know plenty of other stuff, but that’s for another time and place). Why should we put up with that? Is it that people are just too afraid to speak the truth? To call the Mayor incompetent? To call the police chief a liar? To ridicule a city council member and former school board member for advocating “Ebonics?” I think people need to stop pussy footing around and call the baby ugly.

  7. Patrick

    Well, Oakland and Detroit both used to support a vibrant automobile manufacturing industry…

  8. Darby Brandli

    Thought provoking really. Oakland may be different because of the city’s history. People didn’t really come here by choice like other cities…they ended up here. We were the end of the railroad line, we were a port of call for ships. We were a suburb of San Francisco and many of the SF rich moved here or had vacation homes here. We were a refuge for Earthquake survivors. We had lots of dustbowl refugees. We were a city that offered WWII jobs and definitely were a destination for all the Southeast Immigrants after Vietnam because our churches sponsored political refugees. Our “founding fathers” were not altruistic businessmen, many saw Oakland (then Brooklyn and Clinton and Lyn and Oakland) as a place to make a quick buck. Maybe the City’s “culture” has always been different and did not contain as many intact communities. Just thinking….

  9. James H. Robinson

    Again, I really think Oakland’s crime will decrease permanently when enough poor, uneducated, violent people move out. That is how it happened in DC, in New York, and most of the major East Coast cities that turned around to some extent. Also, we should not allow Oakland to be a dumping ground for people like that murderer from last week. Mayor Dellums keeps talking about recidivism rates, but how about making Oakland a less comfortable place for felons in the first place?

  10. TheBoss

    James is exactly right. This is the only thing that will actually help.

    Government policies don’t dictate people’s behavior, and they do precious little to shape that behavior over time. People’s behavior is a combination of genetics, family and childhood influences.

  11. Ken O

    No more excuses for high violent crime rates in Oakland.

    We have all had enough for quite some time.

    Uhuru and other apologists/whitewashers can you please move to Berkeley.


  12. James H. Robinson

    Where does Uhuru get its money? Is it one of those non-profits that gets city money?

    Really, you can’t lift an entire community, although you can help individuals. The black middle class has separate itself from the underclass (and rightly so) by moving out of Oakland. Maybe it is time for them to move back in and push the miscreants out?

  13. Craig

    Note that, compared to other large cities, Oakland’s police force is very small. It is understaffed, the jail doesn’t even exist anymore, and the mayor and city council are all left-wing loons. The crack babies from the 80′s are grown into monsters. Honest citizens aren’t allowed to carry effective self-defense technology.

    Add all that up and what do you expect?

  14. R Kaplan

    Mourning, and making policy.

    Will share more detail next week, as I agree that we need to know that we can change this, we must, and it takes work. In the meantime, I recommend the book “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, including section on crime reduction. Turns out, effective crime reduction is often a combination of key changes in: Blight abatement, graffiti removal, job opportunity, positive role models in key neighborhoods, law enforcement, education, and demographics.

  15. lameducking

    Mayor asked to forgo speech at officers’ funeral

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Taken from comments section on

    If I were the Mayor Ron Dellums: I hope I can redeem myself and earn the family’s trust again. I know what I could do, I can start by criticizing openly the Uhuru’s movement’s insane comments they made celebrating Mixon as a hero, even though his DNA matched the raping of a 12 year old girl. I should criticize these so called progressives that institute laws that give more rights to criminals than the heroes that lost their lives in the line of duty. I should become a Giulani and really crack down on these hardcore gangsters and seize their homes if illicit contraband is being sold there. If I don’t do this, then I should step down and not even inquire the Secretary of State on giving me an ambassadorship and bow out with disgrace. Its a darn shame as Mayor of the City, that my own officer’s family doesn’t want me to speak.

  16. James H. Robinson

    I’m looking forward to reading a sample from “The Tipping Point.” Thanks for the suggestions.

    Now if we can just get a new mayor. . .

  17. Mike Caton

    Is there still anyone after this who hasn’t woken up and stopped saying “Oakland isn’t that bad”? I felt like I was one of the last to convert. Incidentally, I independently found the same thing that Vsmoothe did, i.e. in the early part of this decade crime began to climb dramatically in Oakland even while it’s been level or even falling in the rest of CA:

    As a reluctant amateur demographer and criminologist, right away I learned that people frequently conflate excusing and explaining. But we have to figure out why things are so bad if we’re going to fix it. There’s something “special” about Oakland, if we can use that word, and I think it’s in the soft variables that I find endlessly frustrating: the insistence in bad neighborhoods of an anti-achievement, defeatist, no-snitching, us-vs-them way of thinking. How can people not see how it’s immediately damaging to their own neighborhood – like smashing the windows of black-owned businesses during the Oscar Grant riots. Unfortunately aside from a Clockwork-Orange style deprogramming effort, I have no idea how to fix that. Talking to a few (pro-Mixon) people at the vigil reminded me of talking to blindered religious fundamentalists.

  18. Sharpe James

    Comparing Newark to Inglewood and Oakland is a non-starter.

    They are both too small and have very different histories than Oakland. For population size, St. Louis is a better comparison re: demographics and crime rate.

    Let’s look at Newark, the city you chose that is most similar to Oakland.

    First off, Newark is a little more than half the size of Oakland. Second off, it has a larger police department (roughly 1,300 officers at last count). Thirdly, the city has torn down the majority of its public housing in recent years and moved large chunks of its former population out of the city center, reducing the chance of recidivism by folks coming home from jail on release. Lastly, Newark is a hollowed-out city that is a dart board for the rest of NJ whe.never the topic of crime comes up (even though the goombahs who steal from the state live just a few miles away in West Caldwell and Florham Park).

    There is no genuine middle-class neighborhood left, and therefore very few people who protest against police brutality or overbearing tactics, which they use very liberally (the current police chief is former NYPD from the Giuliani era).

    Insofar as Oakland’s crime problem, that has a lot to do with a godawful school system, the disappearance of local jobs, and rapid gentrification. Hear this one out – when one group gets displaced from a neighborhood and moves into a rival group’s turf, things get hairy (a shining example is Chicago in 2003, when the demolition of housing projects set off a gang war and resulted in a doubling of the homicide rate).

    Finally, and this is going to sound like heresy in light of the 4 dead officers being mourned today, the police department is an absolute mess. There is a complete lack of tactical consistency, alternative programs to incarceration and a chasm between the department and the community that results from officer-involved shootings, the Riders lawsuit, everyday harassment and officers who are unfamiliar with the community and drive home over the hills every night.

    The department says it is understaffed, but for christ’s sake it has ff’d up time and time again and has the gall to ask for more money and additional trust from the citizenry.

    What’s more, Oakland PD spends a lot of its resources keeping folks in Rockridge, downtown and gentrifying areas of North and West Oakland happy. They have slow response times to non-officer shootings down East, and have a miserable clearance rate for homicides (see East Bay Express, 12/3/2008).

    The reasons why crime is out of control are clear. They’re just not politically correct at this point in time.

  19. James H. Robinson

    These people need to be removed and distributed, period. That’s how DC did it, that ‘s probably how Newark and Inglewood are doing it. I think Mayor Brown had the right idea by creating housing for 10,000 new middle-class residents. Stop building so much “affordable” housing in East Oakland, start building more market-rate housing in East Oakland (which started happening before the real estate bubble burst), give Oakland teachers, firefighters and cops incentives to live in that housing, and let part of East Oakland become working class again.

  20. NY'er

    @James Robinson

    Fella, come back east, say what you just said, and see how long you last. People like you should walk the walk before you talk the talk.

    Tough on crime? Move people out? Make it less comfortable? How bout we make things in this country a little bit more even, let you know what it’s like to pay through the nose for rent, have PD breathing down your necks every time you step out the house or onto the subway, and jacking you and your friends up for standing on the street outside your apartment doing nothing.

    As for crime? Life was a lot easier in the 80s and 90s, when we had around 1000-something murders a year. At least you could get by on a decent salary and have something left over before the i-bankers and the Sex and the City Crowd flooded in. And remember, we dealt with sky-high crime rates from the 1970s through most of the 1990s, and we’re still here.

    I swear to God Californians like you all make me glad to be back East and not out there getting my brains addled by the sun. At least when we’re racist, we’re open about it and don’t dance around the issue speaking in code words.

    Good on Oakland for rioting after Oscar Grant. That’s the only way NY got the cops who killed Amadou Diallo tried.

    And it gets y’all undies in a twist.

  21. Static

    East Oakland working class? That’s exactly what it is right now man.

    Guess they’re not the right skin color to be your “working class,” huh?

    Robinson you are a B-I-G-O-T and probably don’t think twice to rip the same people whose labor allows you to eat cheaply produced food, find easy labor to clean your house and your car, or work for dirt wages at non-union workplaces because they have no other options.

    Seriously. Post on Free Republic or VDare, stop hiding behind code words, and say what you really mean.

    This is the problem with the internet. People like you get dutch courage from your anonymity. You’d never have the balls to say this to the very people you’re criticizing like this from your living room.

    And I’ll say this to your face.

  22. James H. Robinson

    Actually, I’m black. And I live in East Oakland. In fact, I live near 98th and MacArthur, less than 2 miles from where the mass murders occurred.

    What I “really mean” is that thug culture is a cancer on the black community. Well meaning people outside the community have exacerbated the problem. The only way to really reduce crime is for working class people to move in. I don’t care what color they are. And by “working class” I mean people who have jobs, who literally WORK. I include teachers, firefighters and police in that category because for the most part they don’t get paid nearly what they are worth. Once you having a stable working class, you will see a decrease in blight and vandalism. You will also have a customer base for retail, something that Oakland desperately needs. Retail brings jobs for young people and those without a lot of education or skills. Those jobs don’t pay nearly as much as the old factories jobs, but they beat nothing.

    So I ask you, Static, what is your ethnicity? Where do you live? And why do you make excuses for those who are eating away at my community?

    Oh, and if I wanted to be anonymous, I would not post using my whole name. Is your name really “Static?”

  23. Ralph

    Mr. Robinson, I stand with you. We need to break up neighborhoods and introduce middle class families via market rate homes. The neighborhoods are far from working class – they are getting by. I propose that we offer landlords incentives to sell and buyers incentive to buy in both East adn West Oakland. Will this lead to displacement? Yes, but it will do wonders to change the neighborhoods. See Baltimore Inner Harbor circa 1979 and take a look today.

    ps: unlike col. jessep, your existence is not grotesque (see you were responding as i was typing.)

  24. James H. Robinson


    Thank you for your response. These tactics also worked in Alexandria, where I used to live. Basically, you integrate the lower-income families with the higher-income families. At the very least, that de-concentrates the poverty and distributes the crime. Hopefully, it gives neighborhoods enough of an economic jump start to get the economic engine going again. In Oakland’s case, I think lower-income families should be distributed not just across Oakland, but across Alameda County. Why can San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward, etc. take some of the burden? They’ve already benefitted from the middle-class exodus from Oakland.

  25. Static

    I’m Palestinian and live in Bayview. We’ve seen what that removal policy results in both in San Francisco and in the Middle East. Your race isn’t important – you are bigoted against people of a lower class. Forced removal is no better than moving Nisei to internment camps or Palestinians into the open-air prisons that are the West Bank and (especially) Gaza.

    Excuses? What’s an excuse? Saying that sh$tty conditions, a failed education system, a militarized police force and complete neglect of large chunks of the city by its civic leaders and politicians is an excuse? Cause that’s what has happened to Oakland. The resources go to the hills and you all still complain the PD are understaffed, even though they get 43% of your general fund.

    You’d rather spend more of that on relocating people out of the city rather than put that to education? James, you’ve got a heart of gold. Masallah…

    And on the internet, James, no one knows you’re a dog.

  26. James H. Robinson

    It isn’t forced removal, it isn’t Palestine. It is capitalism at work. Build some market rate housing, some housing that doesn’t allow section 8 plus add some tax incentives for teachers, firefighters, and cops. It is that simple.

    And if being anti vandalism, grime, and violence makes me anti-poor, then I’m glad to be guilty.

  27. lameducking

    NY’er : Well you probably have to blame the Pirus or OG Mack for starting the United Blood Nation out there in New York (taking the Bloods name) for organizing against the Latin Kings in prison and while they were being let out of prison. These New York Bloods were giving buck 50′s (150 stitches) on innocent people that weren’t probably associated with any gangs. That’s probably why the police we’re breathing down people’s necks out there.

    NY’er the rules in the US are pretty simple my friend. If these knuckleheaded psychopathic morons of a lost generation that addicted their own children to drugs during the rise of crack, could take responsibility rather than killing their own people or robbing innocent civilians at gunpoint, that would be a start. The other is to work hard and stay out of trouble. Education and hard work should be valued and praised in all areas. I don’t care if its even working at Burger King, that individual should be respected for not choosing a life of crime and should not be dissed by members of his/her own community because some rappers suggest “making money the fast way” or Puff Daddy promoting jewelry or Southern rappers with 22in rims that many inner city youth cannot afford. In actually NY’er you’re probably aware of chain snatching that is so prevalent in New York and other urban communities. Also communities need to cooperate with the police and talk to them. The hardworking law abiding people in neighborhoods such as 73rd & MacArthur want them out but the police don’t have leads if nobody is talking.There’s too much mistrust with the police, when those affected by crime in the community should either become police or assist the officers in their investigations. You don’t think Oakland’s homicide detectives wouldn’t want those career building cases in getting a major street organization off the streets? Of course they do, but how can they do it without any leads or anybody coming forward? The 60′s are over friend. You’re more likely to get shot by a hoodlum who likes your chain or getting caught in the crossfire of a drugwar than police brutality. Think about it. Seriously, by condoning this lifestyle and blaming it on the past,you are encouraging racism with people that wouldn’t normally be racist, whose grandparents probably came from Ireland or Eastern Europe and weren’t even involved in this country’s racist past. I do emphasize past. Seriously, you wanna talk about racism goto other foreign countries. They’re places in Latin America, Europe or Asia that wouldn’t give you any notice. For instance in Japan their our clubs that exclusively post signs that read “No Foreigners”.Racism is everywhere, but I believe the US is a bit more tolerant than some ofther countries.

    In a way I’m proud of Oakland. We don’t have the Bloods and Crips here yet, giving a 150 stitches. Hence the notable hip hop phrase “Snitches get stitches”

  28. V Smoothe Post author

    Actually, Static, that’s not quite accurate. On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog, except for the site administrator, who, if she pleases, can share that information with the general audience. This is not Indymedia. It’s a place for rational and informed debate, and you are not contributing productively to the discussion. Knock it off.

  29. Ralph

    Just so it is not lost, in addition to integrating neighborhoods. We need to ensure that by 4th grade Oakland’s young people are performing at grade level. Education gives individuals a way out of poverty and introduces productive opportunities; until we get honest about education, we are going to continue to have this problem with destructive activities and crime.

    We need to demand that our schools provide a quality education. Yesterday, I helped an Oakland high school student with her history homework. It was only 5 questions. The first question, “In big letters write down the name of a 20th century dictator.” Another question, draw the current day map of this dictator’s country. OUSD is doing both the students and Oakland a disservice. We are setting up our students to fail.

    Ms. Kaplan, if you are reading, I ask that you direct the majority of the $9MM available under Children First to proven early education programs. Activities are nice but Oakland’s students need academic enrichment.

  30. James H. Robinson

    I believe that if you integrate working and middle class folks into a neighborhood, they will eventually start to demand more from public schools. Middle class folks understand the importance of education because that’s how many of them became middle class in the first place. Also, if you have OUSD teachers in the neighborhood, they might feel more vested in the schools.

  31. bartholomew

    Thanks, V, for reminding us of our manners.

    I just returned from the memorial. I was directed to the Coliseum, as the arena filled with law enforcement. I was saddened by the lack of general public turnout. And curious as to why the mayor didn’t speak in the beginning. I left after the second eulogy and missed a bit – did he speak at all?

  32. Joanna/ShopGirl

    Bartholomew – it turned out that one or more of the fallen officers’ families asked that he not speak.

    I can’t speak for the rest of the general public, but I had to work… and honestly, even if I didn’t have to work, I would not have gone. There were plenty of law enforcement representatives – and I think it’s important that they go. And having it televised and live streaming online also helped me feel that I was paying my respects.

    But good for you for going… it was very emotional from watching it online.


  33. DontBotherDelores

    I went bartholomew.
    I wasn’t saddened.
    I thought the turnout was impressive.
    Neighbors in my west oakland hood, ladies older than myself, asked me to take flowers with me. Three generation old oaklanders. touching don’t ya think?
    They didnt want to go because they heard that they would be turned away.
    It was true.
    Out there 830 am, still sent to the Oakland A’s ballroom.
    The last time we won a world series was 1989. That’s sad.
    It got quite hot out there in the sun.
    I thought many people were there, the shaded seats were all taken.
    Parents brought their children.
    I did wonder why our Mayor didn’t speak.
    he was there and that’s usually seen as impressive enough for him but now I know why. But Both Senators too, that was nice. Lady Di is running for governor and she sounded the most touching of all the politicos. The Obama letter, I don’t know if he wrote it but it sure sounded like he did. That was touching.

  34. livegreen

    Ralph and James, right on.

    Schools need to have services both for the kids who are doing very well (college bound), doing average (not college bound, but perfectly capable of skilled work), and catch at-risk students to address their problems, turn their behavior around (when possible) and into one of the 1st two. (This helps the learning environment for all the kids).

    Brewer Middle School implemented this all around policy, and they went from an average middle school in Oakland (which is below average elsewhere) to above average, and one of the two-best in all Oakland (with Montera in Montclair). Part of that is better elementary schools. But part of that is supporting the teachers AND the at-risk kids by working on their problems through a school based program called Brothers on the Rise.

    Check it out,

  35. gem s

    “How can people not see how it’s immediately damaging to their own neighborhood – like smashing the windows of black-owned businesses during the Oscar Grant riots.”

    Just to put this myth to rest, the people rioting were: not necessarily Oaklanders (a majority of those arrested were from out of town), not necessarily in their own neighborhood (I do live in the downtown neighborhood that was trashed, pretty much all my neighbors were out picking up newspaper racks and looking at their smashed windshields in dismay), and not necessarily African-American (I was out in the middle of the riot, and less than half the rioters I saw were black).

    So to answer your question in a general way: these people didn’t care, because they came from somewhere else to trash someone else’s neighborhood. Having looked out my window to see a white dude from a certain Berkeley communist group leading rioters down my street with a megaphone, I don’t have much patience with the whole “inner city residents destroy own neighborhood” line that seemed to pop up in every newspaper and on every blog ever since. Apparently the who and why of these events is far more complex, and much more difficult to deal with than most people have words or patience for (and I’m not saying that to diss you, I’m saying that because simplistic viewpoints are part of our cultural narrative, and unfortunately are what guides most political processes). If there’s anything I’ve learned from living in Oakland, it’s that it’s a very complex place, and no one solution is going to solve all the issues that plague this city. It’s going to take a multi-pronged attack, and that’s going to be difficult when no one has any money and people are going to be fighting tooth and nail for their own pet solution. I tend to think it’s going to take a grassroots effort from the people in the lousy areas to make a difference, as I don’t trust the Oakland government to do much of anything at this point.

  36. len raphael

    JHR, to find out more about Uhuru’s finances got to and search for African People’s Education and Defense Fund to find copies of their non profit tax returns.

    (free but you have to register first, no biggee).

    Most of the $900k or so they collected in 2007 was from their used furniture stores. (one is on Grand Ave in Oakland and gets some nice stuff from Piedmont and the hills folks who take a tax deduction and feel like they’re doing a mitzvah). 144k was spent on “occupancy”, 40k on interest expense (real estate loans), 110k on professional fees, and 317k on “subcontractors”. rest on various.

    looking at their balance sheet, looks like Uhuru was increasing their real estate holdings by at least 600k.

    I have a special feeling for Uhuru because they went door to door in District One in the June 08 council election, distributing door hangers libeling Pat McCullough (i was his treasurer). They were equipped with precinct lists and crude but nifty door hangers. Pat’s opponent, the incumbent, never publicly repudiated Uhuru even though Uhuru was doing the heavy lifting for the incumbent by painting Pat as a child killer, later modifying that libel to just gun toting violent kinda uncle tom you couldn’t trust to be an elected official. It would have been funny except that people believed enough of it. (that’s another topic).

    -len raphael

  37. len raphael

    RK, you worry me that you recommend Malcom G. as a good source of guidance on crime reduction. I caught some of his interview on NPR the other day, and it sounded like one of his regrets was his crime reduction work. he clearly explained that his method of writing popular non fictionis to pick one theory that he agrees with, then runs with it.

    Would put more reliance on a local ucb academic like Frank Zimring “The Great American Crime Decline” than Malcom G. i’ve only seen some general stuff from him about oakland.

    -len raphael

  38. Ralph

    Gem S, I agree there were a significant professional rioters from parts outside of Oakland creating a considerable amount destruction during the Grant riots. So in one sense, they were not destroying their immediate neighborhood, but correct me if I am wrong don’t these people see the entire plant as their neighborhood. It is somewhat troubling that they will destroy a neighborhood, move on to the next cause without regard to the damage done. A neighborhood destroyed is invitation for all sorts of additional vandalism. Local PD and prosecutors with no more pressing issues view vandalism as a low priority crime while the neighborhood continues to go to heck in a handbasket.

    Vandalism as a low level crime is not unique to Oakland. But if want to restore our city, we need to get NYC tough on these quality of life crimes. The message needs to be we care all the time not just when someone loses a life.

  39. Deckin

    1. About the ‘all around policy’ at Brewer. First off, the cardinal rule of any rational appraisal of anything is to make sure there weren’t other features that may have been relevant that also changed at the time one’s preferred feature changed. Brewer’s demographics (sorry–but it matters) also have changed since they instituted their policy. Could that have anything to do with its improvement?
    2. I absolutely second Len’s comments about Malcolm Gladwell. Knowing that we now have two members of city council using him as their muse (the witless Jean Quan being the other one) is almost as depressing as the subject of crime in Oakland. With all their money, would it be too much to ask members of council to at least pay some reputable criminologists (from all sides to ensure balance) to present ideas and theories to them instead of gleaning their views from that overrated hack?
    3. Along the lines of my first comment: What changed in 2003 when crime in Oakland exploded? Remember that Consent Decree? Is it just a coincidence that police were basically put on warning not to be overly aggressive, burdened with cumbersome new rules and regulation, and had sworn officers removed from front line crime fighting units to internal affairs at just the time that crime exploded? Hmmm.

  40. V Smoothe Post author

    I will third the caution against usingThe Tipping Point to inform policy.

    Re: consent decree. It’s not quite that simple, Deckin. The negotiated settlement agreement was signed in January 2003. Violent crime in Oakland was actually down in 2003 from 2002, and down again in 2004. It began increasing again in 2005, but really skyrocketed in 2006.

    Violent crimes reported in Oakland 2002-2007:
    2002: 5661
    2003: 5583
    2004: 5150
    2005: 5519
    2006: 7599
    2007: 7900

  41. len raphael

    D, one piece of the puzzle probably is that opd street cops greatly reduced aggressive proactive street stops and patdowns (is that the phrase?) after the NSA consent deal. When word got around to both the good guys and the bad guys that if a cop looks at you funny, you can file a complaint and the vastly expanded Internal Affairs will make the cop’s life a paperwork hell.

    Another theory is that the number of lawsuits against cops, including federal civil rights violations, increased but Russo’s office settled rather than fought.

    Those theories are totally based on cop talk. Is there any data that can be examined to check out the theory?

  42. Ryan Tate

    This is an incredible post. Thank you Echa. Wow. Just really, really good work!

    That first chart is amazing and the comparison to Newark is inspired.

  43. Ryan Tate

    Like Sharpe’s response too, although I think what you (Sharpe) say about the larger police department is probably one _reason_ for the difference in crime rates not a disqualification for comparing the two cities. That is to say, If one of the key diffs between the Oakland and Newark is Newark;s bigger per capita (or absolute) police force then that may tell you something about why the crime rate is diff.

    Ditto for less public housing in Newark. Maybe that’s a clue on crime reduction. Not necessarily that Oakland should tear any down (though I guess one could mount that argument) but that it could encourage more market rate housing to change the ratio. (There are community activists in Fruitvale who told me they wanted to see exactly that.)

  44. We Fight Blight

    Not to disparage any particular group, but has anyone bothered to look at the number of parolees that were cut loose in Oakland in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and whether that has any rational relationship to a spike in crime. If the recidivism rates are as high as everyone is saying, a large number of Corcoran and San Quentin graduates dumped on the streets of Oakland might influence Oakland’s crime rates. Perhaps it would be helpfu to focus on who is committing violent crimes in Oakland in order to develop a strategy to prevent violent crimes…

  45. masb

    It’s been touched on briefly here – I would really like to see Police Officers living in Oakland, raising their kids here and being full time residents of the communities that they serve. I don’t think you have the same feeling for a town you leave everyday.

  46. ConcernedOakFF

    I would like to clear up a few points that people always make on here like they know what they are talking about, and that are patently FALSE.

    Police response times in East Oakland to shootings are probably faster than anywhere in the hills or rockridge. When the Fire Department gets dispatched for a reported shooting, we stage nearby until the Police Department has arrived and found that the scene is safe enough for us Non-Law Enforcement personnel to enter. They are so fast at responding that as we leave the firehouse, if the shooting is actually where it was reported, our dispatch is already telling us the the scene is “secure per OPD”, meaning that they have arrived in less than 2 minutes (counting time from phone call to dispatch, to telling the Fire Dispatch that we can respond in).

    That is incredibly fast. There is NO FREAKING way that people in East, West or Middle Oakland are getting worse service due to their location.

    However, since there are VERY few officers in the nice areas (yes, it’s true…) the response times to somewhere up near skyline or other high up areas would be, by nature of Officer locations, very long.

    If there is a delay in the arrival of Police, Fire or the Ambulance, it is most likely due to a lack of proper information from the Community. When someone calls and says “I heard shots” and does not say “someone is shot and bleeding” it is not classified in the same level of priority for dispatching. If someone is shot, and they say the right location, and they correct information, I guarantee you that we will all arrive very very fast.

    masb – No freaking way will Officers from the OPD live or raise their families en masse in Oakland. It is just too close to home. Would YOU like to go shopping with your familiy at the local store and see people that you arrested? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

    I have many friends and relatives that are police officers. I do not know one of them that lives where they work, be it Walnut Creek, Oakland, San Francisco or Berkeley.

    You need to distance yourself sometimes from the people, places and situations that make up your work life, for personal sanity.

    These same Officers, ESPECIALLY OPD Officers, care very deeply about this community and this city. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t work here. As much negativity as they get on a daily basis, they could go to Danville and get paid way more, and be way safer, more respected, and less stressed very easily.

    People that work in Oakland CHOOSE to work in Oakland. It’s that simple. You do not need to live here 24/7 to care.

  47. Mike

    One of the early comments I think hit the nail on the head. The size of the police force. I am told by police from other cities that Oakland is way undermanned.

    Compare it to San Francisco and I believe Oakland has around 1/2 the force per capita as SF.

    Maybe we should just sign over police duty to UHURU house since they seem to have all the answers.

  48. V Smoothe Post author

    For information about relative sizes of police forces, I suggest people read this post from the archives.

    While I personally would like to see a large police force in Oakland, it’s really important to note that there is no correlation between larger numbers of police per capita and lower crime rates. There’s lots of reasons for this (high crime cities need more police because there are more calls for service to respond to, for example), but the assumption that we can reduce crime just by adding more officers is overly simplistic and simply not supported by data.

    Look at us. We have about 15% more police officers now than we did in the earlier part of this decade, but crime isn’t lower, it’s higher. Much, much higher.

  49. Patrick

    I’ve just read a very interesting article on CNN, written by Leonard Pitts, Jr., a Pulitzer prize winning columnist for the Miami Herald. I had a difficult time trying to decide under which thread to post, but as many of the most recent posts seem to dance around the subject of race, relations and equality, I chose this one because it is the most current.

    Basically, this article discusses the findings of the National Urban League’s ’2009 State of Black America Report’ and a Yale study. A couple of interesting things to me (severely paraphrased from the paraphraser, and of course including generalizations):

    1. Blacks and Whites measure racial progress differently: whites point to how far we have progressed, while blacks point to how far we have to go. Needless to say, each racial group espouses the viewpoint that is the most forgiving to our individual groups.

    2. By relying on our individual “yardsticks”, black people’s only obligation is to demand justice and equality from whites, while white people’s only obligation is to demand that blacks take responsibility and become more self-reliant.

    3. Government money/programs are not necessary for blacks to turn off the TV to devote more time with academics, wait until married (or in a stable relationship) to have children, or to “quit allowing our community to be defined by a coarse popular culture whose words and images are indistinguishable from the Ku Klux Klan’s.”

    4. Once the TV is off, etc., whites must realize that in black neighborhoods, schools are crumbling, underfunded and poorly staffed, and there is inadequate housing, access to jobs and medical care.

    5. BOTH yardsticks are valid. And to dismiss one without recognizing the other is ridiculous.

    This article has completely realigned my thought process. As a just over one year resident of Oakland, I allowed myself to focus on some bad aspects of our city and, over time, the black population in general became my scapegoat. In short: I became a racist. I didn’t intend or want to, but it is hard to find out that three young black men nearly killed an 82 year old Asian woman with a broom handle two houses away from yours and not have your belief system shaken up a bit. But how could I be a racist? 2 of my 5 “best” friends are black! Ah, but i realize while writing this that I don’t think of them as “black”, I think of them as Roger and Cheryl.

    My feelings are this: if I, and others like me, didn’t feel the need to increase funding to our police, we could increase the funding for schools. If we didn’t need to provide assistance to the 72% of black children, (and 51% of hispanic children and 28% of white children) borne out of wedlock, we could devote more funding to affordable housing and job creation. And if we hadn’t felt we had to spend a huge amount of our General Fund on afterschool programs lest we pay the price later, we could have devoted funding to community clinics for everyone’s benefit.

    I’m personally more than willing to meet halfway. I can’t speak for everyone. But it is often hard to see evidence of an attempt to make A Better Oakland, by anyone’s yardstick. Why do I have to endure the “hard stare” every time I walk down my street, coming home from volunteering at my local elementary school? Why should it be suggested by our Mayor that too many police would be like an “occupying force”, when I am unable to leave my windows open at night without having to be overly worried that I might be burglarized, or worse? Why did the Fruitvale Commercial District go from being overwhelmingly black and full of boarded up stores less than 20 years ago to being primarily hispanic, with a thriving commercial area that boasts an occupancy rate of 99% – the highest in Oakland?

    I don’t want to see people rise up for Lovelle Mixon and point their finger at me. I want to see people rise up and say that crumbling schools, lack of jobs/retail, litter-strewn streets, maintenance-deferred housing, and the thug culture of drugs, violence and child prostitution are NOT solely the fault of white actions, but the failure of everyone’s actions. Because they are.

  50. MarleenLee

    While “The Tipping Point” might make for interesting reading, required reading for all City Council members should be the Hartnett Report and last year’s Grand Jury report, both emphasizing our desperate need for more police officers. There is simply no dispute that OPD is understaffed, and that Oaklanders overwhelmingly support more police. Indeed, a majority of voters in the last election were even willing to pay a shocking amount of money for more police in additional taxes! If the City would provide the officers, without imposing the additional tax burden, the support would probably be in the realm of 80% or more. Oakland officials have a clear mandate to get officers on the street.

    Ideas posed by authors, policy wonks, city planners and the like might have been worth exploring a few years ago, but that’s a luxury we don’t have time for right now. We are in the middle of a crisis, people are dying, and more officers on the street will at least help staunch the bleeding. Intellectual theories put into action might work someday, but we need to put something into action that you don’t need a PhD to know WILL work NOW. Flood the streets with police, and crime will go down. This is not rocket science. Even a crackhead criminal who dropped out of high school is far less likely to commit a crime when there’s a cop standing right there, or likely to drive by at any moment. Mixon was the exception, and anyway, he’s dead, so I hope others so inclined learned some small lesson. Look at the statistics for the surge in Iraq – the surge resulted in a reduction from 76 civilian deaths per day (2006) and 67 per day (2007) to 25 per day in 2008 (and it was dropping dramatically toward the end of 2008). Of course there are other reasons for the decline as well, but flooding a city with armed military is a clear deterrent!

    As for Oakland right now, we may have more officers today than we did at the earlier part of the decade, but there are lots of other factors: our population has increased people, we had the Riders settlement (which has something of a deterrent effect on crime fighting), we’ve had a useless police chief for the last several years, etc. etc. And while OPD has finally deployed most of the Measure Y officers, to be honest, I’m not convinced that was the best use of resources, and the Hartnett report confirms this. We need more officers on patrol and doing investigations, putting the bad guys away.

    Measure Y was passed nearly five years ago, and we still don’t have all the officers we were promised. Ineptitude is the only excuse. I have absolutely no tolerance or patience for the idea that we should be focusing on reading treatises, forming task forces, developing strategy plans etc. That will take months, if not years, and if history is any guide, any efforts in that regard will be wasted, because City leaders are too inept to implement anything effectively. I say, allocate the money, start the academies, and put 300 extra officers on the street. We will see a difference. And in the meantime, to those of you who want to explore longer term solutions to education, poverty and race relations, have at it.

  51. len raphael

    ML, i draw a different conclusion the changes in the conduct of the us occupation of Iraq, but would agree as offensive as it sounds there are lessons to be learned for improving oakland security.

    Based on my conversations with my sons’ and their friends who have all spent at 2 to 3 years over there in the last five years.

    The surge was concentrated on Baghdad and did provide an immediate reduction in civilian deaths. No way could that level of occupation be maintained because of cost.

    Outside of Baghdad in the Suni areas most of the security improvement came from a combo of American army paying the Suni’s (aka SOI sons of iraq)to kick out non iraqi insurgents; and the Suni’s realizing that the Americans were actually protecting them from the shia militias. Maybe that idea of a para police force hired from within East O might have merit. Hecka cheaper than more opd ot. just have to worry about the cost of lawsuits. Maybe better supervision of opd would improve relations between opd and residents to build up trust. Maybe the residents of East O will eventually figure out that if they provide intelligence to the cops, the cops won’t have to use intrusive patrol methods.

    in the shia areas, the huge runup in the price of oil resulted in so much money going the iraq central govt, that even they couldn’t waste it fast enough (hmm, sounds more and more like Oakland). So they had a bunch left over to hire and pay for a whole bunch of cops and troops to smoother Basra and Sadir City. We need oil wells for that to work.

    -len raphael

  52. We Fight Blight

    On a North Oakland Yahoo Groups a neighbor meticulously described the age, gender, height, weight, hair color, style, clothing, and race of an individual she witnessed casing her neighbor’s homes. She reported it to the police. One of the questions the police asked was the race of the individual. Because the alleged caser was not apprehended, she posted the warning to her neighbors on the Yahoo Groups. She was then taken to task by other neighbors and accused of being racist for noting the race of the suspicious individual. A heated debate ensued that created quite a rift among some neighbors that to this day has never healed.

    Describing who commits crime in Oakland is always a dicey subject and sometimes elicits claims of racism because the who is often parsed out by demographics. However, knowing who commits crime, where they commit crimes, and why they commit crimes is central in preventing the criminal activity either by helping those at risk to change their behaviors before they become offenders or by providing police services in a targeted fashion to catch those in the act of offending.

    For those who are interested in knowing who commits homicides in Oakland, the Urban Strategies Council has been tracking information on both suspects and victims of homicides in Oakland including race, gender, age, and parole/probationary status. As well, they identify the geographic distribution of homicides throughout the City. They have been collecting this information since 2002 . Each report provides statistics for the specific year and then a 5 year average.

    The mission of the Urban Strategies Council is to eliminate persistent poverty by working with partners to transform low-income neighborhoods into vibrant, healthy communities.

    There is no doubt that the violent crime rate in Oakland is way too high by any standard. It is true that we can parse the statistics and the demographics until we are blue in the face, but it doesn’t change Oakland’s violent crime rates and the destructive effect it has on families and our community.

    V, you say that “There is nothing inherent about Oakland that means we have to dramatically outpace practically every other city in the entire country in terms of violent crime”. Well, since Oakland seems to dramatically outpace practically every other city in the entire country in terms of violent crime year after year, there is something significantly different about Oakland.

    So what is it? Until we actually understand who commits crime, where they commit crime, and why they commit crime we will never know the answers nor the solutions that seem to confound you and just about everyone else.

  53. V Smoothe

    Except that we didn’t until just a couple years ago. I don’t know why people are having such a difficult time understanding that.

  54. livegreen

    Enough talking about the problems. Let’s start talking about the solutions. The real problem is that everybody not only pokes holes in every body else’s theories and solutions, they only look for the problems and NOT for solutions.

    There’s no one magic bullet (even N.Y. had immigration, not just Bratton & and Compstat… we don’t have any of those). There are several elements that together will make a difference:

    –Education & diverse schools (that addresses the needs of all students, all backgrounds);
    –Student support activities inside & out;
    –Diverse businesses, racially and economically (white collar + blue collar, both with diversity programs);
    –Affordable living;
    –A police force which includes rapid response from patrol, and neighborhood police who know the businesses, the citizens, & the layout of the land (economic, cultural & geographic)
    (note: we don’t yet have the first, NP is just recent since Marlene’s lawsuit, & the last is an extension of NP development);
    –An effective communication system from OPD (Compstat) to Economic Development t to Public Works;
    –OUSD & Oakland governments which operate as openly as possible, with a combination of efficiency (hah!) and economic policies that positively affect the diverse populations of the city beyond the interests of the electorate & campaign contributors of any one city council person (hah!).

    We need to hold our politicians accountable, but ourselves too. What are YOU doing to actively better your City and/or YOUR neighborhood (or your neighbors neighborhood)?

  55. Deckin

    I think V’s persistent question regarding what has changed is the right angle. Most of the comments appear to focus on ‘solving the problem’ but it’s obvious from reading them that by ‘the problem’ they refer to crime in general. But that misses V’s point. Rather than spend yet more time rehashing what to do about the underlying condition, it might be more profitable to focus only on the change in condition. Maybe that would shed light on the underlying condition, maybe it wouldn’t. I think we have a real case of hidden data here. The parole numbers that Len raises might give us a clue. And so might some inside info on police practices. But something has to line up with the timeline or else it’s just a random jump (explosion is probably the better term). A thought along those lines is that perhaps we shouldn’t focus too tightly on the timeline. Some factors may have a delayed effect (the jail closing?) especially if these factors resulted in attitudinal changes on the streets. Diffusion of ideas can take time to percolate and could have begun well before the explosion that is their effect.

  56. livegreen

    V – For your stat comparison on the size of police forces vs. crime, is there a source to compare income & economic data?

    Also the L.A. Times article you refer to says:

    “For one, Oakland, the state’s eighth-largest city, is home to a large population of parolees, who account for approximately 50% of the crimes committed there.

    Among others: The northern cities have seen steep increases in gang violence. And there are significant differences between north and south in police strategy, particularly in the use of CompStat, a computer crime-tracking program favored by L.A. Police Chief William J. Bratton.

    ‘When you ask what is the current state of criminal activity, [Bratton] can pull out his BlackBerry and cite the crime rate within the last week,” state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said last month, during the swearing-in ceremony for Bratton’s second term.’”

    Parolees, gangs & compstat. The first two are problems, the latter an element of solution. Re. the 1st two, I’d be curious if there’s a source that might indicate if there was a surge of parolees & gangs around then, or not…

    2006′s increase sure sticks out.

  57. Ken O

    The only things I know that changed a couple years ago are:

    * new police chief (Wayne Tucker)
    *** therefore new shift hours (10 hours –> 12 hours)
    *** geographic policing (3 oakland “districts” instead of the old methods)
    *** widely known to have lowered OPD morale
    *** seems to have not been held accountable by current/past city council members for years

    * new mayor (Ron Dellums)

    * I moved to Oakland in ’05 after Katrina

    I don’t want to pin our ultra high crime problems on just these three people, but they are what comes to mind right away. What else am I missing from a couple of years ago?

  58. Ken O


    We have a strong contingent of people in Oakland who like to apologize for criminals due to their own “white guilt” or by virtue of being liberal. i’m fairly lib myself but do not put up with crime for any reason. (unless you are stealing water from someone’s water hose because you’re dying of thirst because someone else stole your water originally, or whatev)

    conducting violent crime is breaking society’s social contract, good sense, the 10 commandments(?) and generally being uncivilized.

    just because you are poor or had a mother on crack, etc, doesn’t mean you don’t learn what is right and proper, and that you have absolutely no internal moral compass. i think most people know what is right and just. but I hear people making these arguments to apologize for bad behavior. What we need is to hold ourselves and everyone else to high standards. Expect more.

    yes we have injustices on a society-wide level and it’ll always be that way until the cycle resets. it always does.

    Q: can anyone* justify:


    just because someone is black or white or latino? c’mon.

    (* “anyone” excluding Uhuru, which supported Jane Brunner’s city council campaign in 2008)

    the problem Oakland has, is people enforcing their Berkeley “Politically Correct” values on everyone else, to the detriment of public safety. it’s time for a return to sanity. more guns to go with the butter.

    berkeley moral values do not protect you from muggers, thieves, crooks, CEOs, or religious leaders of any race or class. these types of people will always exist, and must be dealt with to retain a semblance of civil society.

    property crime is one thing. violent crime is another. I’ve had enough of it in Oakland and so have most other people.

    I’m tired of having my friends mugged and sent to ER for skull fractures.

    I’m tired of having my license plate stolen.

    I’m tired of black people shooting each other at Dorsey’s locker, or outside my house in Temescal.

    I don’t care why people are shooting each other. They should stop, or pay the consequences. I don’t want to be caught in the middle of other people’s emergencies.

    I voted for “change” knowing Obama would be an economic janitor. I didn’t vote for any criminal coddlers at Oakland city hall in the latest election. Time to wake up, folks.

  59. len raphael

    But hasn’t Oakland consistently been much more violent/10k than other similar demographic cities for the last 10 years or so? (V, did you post old stats on this?). So even a big percentage increase in just the last two or three years, could just be the result of a relatively small change from say operation of OPD and the NSA, amplified by underlying and a long running continuing difference between Oakland and similar demog’d cities. which is maybe a variation of Blight’s point.

    Ideally would be to take a poll of Oakland cops and ask a sample of them anonymously what they think is going on.

    heck, why not each of us ask a cop next time we see one at a donut shop and report back here. trick is to get thru initial, “the council and mayor are anti cop” or “we’re grossly understaffed”, “too many cons end up here”, all of which are true, but not whole picture.

  60. Ralph

    Ken, we should marry and make like minded babies. Nothing annoys me more than white liberal guilt, which more or less allows society to make excuses for the behavior of disadvantaged children. This is an excuse. And some have bought so far into it that they support the dumbing down of classroom text further perpetuating the cycle of poverty resulting from low educational achievement. At some point individuals need to accept responsibility for their actions. Drug dealers and gang bangers know what they are doing is wrong, to claim that they are a product of circumstance is a lie.

    A few days after the Mixon incident, my mother called me to find out if this occurred near my home. I assured her that it did not and as we continued talking the conversation turned to the loss of life. I told her felt for the families of the officers, but as for Mixon’s family, I felt nothing. Yes, I said I know this is someone’s son, brother, etc…but by 15 you know right from wrong, there was no reason on earth for him to shoot the officers. That he did was in my mind a pretty good admission that he had done something that he should not have.

    There comes a point that people need to be responsible for their actions. I am sick to death of Dellums and Nadel, “thug a hug” programs. Accountability and responsibility. To quote Billy Valentine, “you can’t be soft on people like that.”

  61. len raphael

    this blogging around the causes and cures for high violent crime is the best argument for need for a compstat program plus a competent politically independent run opd. without better info we need to push for a competently run opd that tries diifferent approaches and measures results best it can. no way we have the bucks to just throw more cops at the problem.

  62. Patrick

    lameducking, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Oakland is not “his city”, it is our city. And he is the Mayor of our city by grace of our electing him to the office. He is supposed to work for us – ALL of us – and he does not.

    The majority of the citizens of Oakland support a stronger security presence, but Dellums has stated that he doesn’t think we want an “occupying force”. Well, we do! The City Council approved $200,000 for armed guards in certain high risk areas (one of which was the area in which the 4 officers were murdered). Dellums wanted them to be UNARMED (I mean, seriously?) and Crony Lindheim did not implement the plan. This is just one piece of evidence that Dellums is anti-security for our city; why would the police support him?

    Look around you. Oakland, in many areas, is not a safe place. These police officers go out every day and risk their lives so that you and I can be relatively assured that we will arrive home safely and find that our stuff is still there. Anyone who equates that with an “occupying force” is clearly delusional.

  63. livegreen

    Many are wearing Blue Ribbons, or tying them to their cars, to show support for OPD. I will start doing this too!

  64. Patrick

    Not to mention that Dellums barely managed a very short press conference, filled with his standard babblespeak, hours after the officers were shot. Did we disturb his afternoon nap? Larry Reid and Desley Brooks were at the police department, consoling officers and just plain showing concern for HOURS – long after part-time-at-best Dellums was driven back to his house in the hills in his city-provided chauffeured limousine.

    Dellums should RESIGN. This should have been a defining moment for his career, and any normal person would take this for the ultimate vote of no-confidence that it is and leave the city in more capable hands.

  65. lameducking

    Patrick. I agree with you. I mean “his city” by being the highest elected official in the city. I am just merely stating the obvious that our officers gave him a vote of “no confidence” in which is a travesty, since usually the cops in other cities would give the Mayor their support.

  66. Patrick

    Ah. Semantics is a curious thing. Please pardon my rant, though I meant every word of it!

  67. Jennifer

    Many other cities and counties send proclamations and flowers for the Friday funeral — I heard that there was nothing from Dellum’s office. I wonder if I could get that rumor verified, because if it is true, it is disgraceful.

  68. Ralph

    lameducking, i think i get what you are saying.

    Patrick, while the Mayor’s reluctance to implement that which he promised Mr. Reid is troubling, it is wrong to suggest that these guards could have either prevented or minimized the tragedy. This was afterall a traffic stop that went horribly wrong.

    For the record, I am undecided on the armed security. We have unarmed security in my hood and it somewhat reassuring. I listened to Mr. Reid state all the reasons why he supports it. I listened as one of the 2 providers explained the training his employees undergo. But then I wonder does a packer below the age of 22 with nothing to lose react differently than an older packer and have we increased the overall risk of injury from a stray bullet.

  69. Patrick


    I did not in any way suggest that an armed guard could have prevented the tragedy that occured, I was simply trying to illustrate that the Mayor does not heed the wishes of his constituency and is anti-security for our city. The point is that our “Mayor” does what he wants and at his own lackadaisical pace – and leaves the rest of us to clean up the blood. No wonder his latest approval rating is only 25%; shocking, really, in a city with the demographics of Oakland’s.

    Also for the record, I am not convinced we should have armed security guards in our city – we have a police department to serve in that function. If anything, the agreement to use armed security is an admission that our city pay/benefits rates are too high – as it would be less than half as expensive to hire private security. But that’s another debate. Other than cost, of course, private security can be assigned to a specific area – and stay there. Our police force transfers around a lot, which does nothing for building community confidence.

  70. Patrick

    Len, I hear you. I am certainly no fan of DB; I simply offered up the reality of her actions as one specific instance to (further) illustrate our Mayor’s unsuitability for his job.

  71. JB

    I think much of the spike in violent crime can be attributed to some very specific changes at OPD. Just to list a few:

    1. Chief Word dismantled the Major Narcotics unit after uncovering corruption. Chief Tucker refused to reconstitute the unit and thus Oakland, the primary conduit for drugs in the Bay Area, has gone without the investigations needed to keep a lid on the violence such a conduit ineluctably creates.

    2. Chief Tucker closed the OPD jail. This resulted immediately in a precipitous decline in arrests — especially misdemeanor arrests (the nuisance/quality of life sweeps that keep chronic victims and predators off the streets). The jail closure also demoralized officers by increasing processing times and transferring discretion over who can be arrested to Alameda County deputies/nurses.

    3. Chief Tucker shuttered Juvenile Intake for over two years. This resulted in a sudden decrease in contacts/detentions/arrests of juveniles. This means that in Oakland, where the police are often the only authority that juveniles encounter in a world otherwise consisting of pure power relations, an entire generation of juveniles went largely without such contacts for two years.

    4. Chief Tucker aggressively implemented the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA), adopting even the most unreasonable requests of the Independent Monitoring Team (IMT). These included, for example, a massive revamping of the use of force policy that required an untold number of officer man-hours spent canvassing for witnesses and completing reams of documents after a minor use of force with no injury to the suspect.

    5. Chief Tucker reoriented the entire police department to focus on compliance with the NSA at the expense of crime fighting. The effects of this reorientation are still reverberating through the department, and have composed the only air ever breathed by the 200 new officers who were hired during his tenure.

    This list could continue ad nauseum. Chief Tucker, as has been exhaustively documented in Ron Oz’s posts,, has left a demoralized and dysfunctional police department in his wake.

  72. das88

    @JB that is a wonderful summary assessment of the problem. Your five points really indicate how Oakland varies from other jurisdictions and itself of a few years prior to explain the increase in crime. Your summary definitely rings true.

    In fact, it provides the context for the confusing attitude in the oft-quoted (excuse my paraphrase) statement that “we can’t arrest our way out the problem.” With your five points, it seems that OPD shifted from an arrest the bad guys philosophy to one of compliance with the NSA.

    Well as we keep seeing a relatively small number of bad guys out on the street can cause a lot of crime.

  73. len raphael

    JB, how long has/was juvee closed down? please describe more of what that meant. ie. were all detainees under the age of 18 released unless they suspected of felonies? or was it 16? -len

  74. Frankie D

    All juveniles arrested for a felony are sent to the county facility at 150th in San Leandro. To my knowledge all the cities in Alameda County use this facility for charged juvenile felons as well as those serving out their sentence. I did not know that Oakland at one time had a seperate facility for juveniles but it was probably closed for cost savings since the county and state can provide this service and for the safety of the juveniles since its not wise to have them in a facility that also houses adult felons. They have kids as young as 11.

  75. V Smoothe Post author

    It was the department’s juvenile intake desk that was closed, not the county juvenile detention center. The 2005 closure of the juvenile intake desk was probably the most brain-dead of all ill-considered changes Tucker made to the department, and rendered OPD the only large agency in the entire stake without a juvenile section.

  76. annoyed

    James: I’m with you 100%. I pray for gentrificaton. It can’t get here fast enough. I’ ve written a response to this topic several times and deleted them all because I reduced myself to ranting.

    One thing I will let stand is this: Wasn’t it generous of Static to state that NYC was better off when there were 1000 murders a year but at least he could afford to live in the City? After all, it isn’t about the dead guys, it’s all about “me.” That’s exactly the attitude I deplore in Oakland. The murders don’t bother anyone really and if a high body count is the cost of keeping the city affordable, then so be it. Translated another way, it’s okay for black people to kill black people if it keeps housing affordable (and as a by product, keeps crime concentrated in certain areas). It’s when someone white or law enforcement gets in the equation that it becomes a problem. Murders are only used for political reasons in this town.

    Two women were shot on Friday, one died and another is in critical condition. Where is Static’s outrage? What about Uhuru house? The Oscar Grant protestors? For that matter, where’s the outrage from rest of the city?

    The worst part of all of this is that there is no one in Oakland who can step forward from the fire and try to lead the city. No One. The horror of the police murders was a sad opportunity for someone to step up and be a leader and there ‘s no one. And when the next mayoral race arrives, it will be the same roster of low witted, termed out, political hacks with no vision who will run. They will promise to fix the schools, lower crime, bring economic development, and build more affordable housing. If they are really clever, they’ll add something about climate change. And everyone will cheer and act like this is some new exciting strategy they haven’t heard before.

    Oakland has a huge problem with non functioning family units, a proliferation of violent ex offenders, a horrible problem with child prostitution, and so on. New schools are nice but if youth don’t come to school ready to learn, then the problem is not solved. People keep screeching for jobs but the fact is, our youth are not prepared for most jobs. You can’t get a good job if all you know how to do is make some bad rhymes and shoot hoops. Youth need new role models.

    “The soft racism of low expectations” has put young kids of color back in chains. Education used to be the way out for black people, now it is something to be scorned.

    I believe in the broken window concept. NYC decided to clean up the city and they weren’t guilted into backing off. I don’t think this can ever happen in Oakland. We can rail about Nancy Nadel but this town is filled with people like her. And it’s also filled with the kind of people who would have a fit that a crime suspect is described as being black. Oakland is a very sick city because of people with some very sick values.

    We desperately need new leadership in Oakland. I honeslty believe Oakland is in a downward spiral that it mgiht not recover from.

  77. annoyed

    JB: To add to your list:

    Under Jerry Brown, OPD was nearly gutted. The lowest numbers of sworn personnel in recent memory occurred under the Brown administration.

    Beat Health, one of the few functioning units, was shut down. The gang unit was disbanded. The traffic division shrunk. As was noted, the jail was closed.

    The implementation of Community Policing, has been thwarted at every opportunity. If budget cuts were needed, they were taken out of Community Policing.

    There are finally enough PSOs but it still isn’t clear how much time they spend responding to calls for service instead of solving problems in their assigned beats. And the unconsionable rotation of PSOs (without their consent or request) prevents real relationships from developing between the PSOs and the community.

    Last year, the Community Polcing Advisory Board CPAB was shut down after a failure by city staff and elected officials to enforce the requirements for terms of service. The decision to shut down the Board came once a majority of the Board was not legally serving and the Board had no quorum and could not meet legally. It was just coincidence that this happened at the same time the new geographic policing program was introduced and the $7M was taken from Measure Y for recruitment. The police advisory board was unable to weigh in on any of it. Did I mention how much the police brass hate the CPAB?

    The failures of leadership with the police department started with Jerry Brown and have continued under Dellums.

  78. MarleenLee

    FYI, JB, I’ve just started looking into what’s going on with the CPAB. I just did a public records request to find out who’s on it now and whether it has even been meeting for the last year, and if so, what has been discussed. (According to recent documentation, it looks like the Council is set to approve a couple new members tomorrow). Oakland is so dysfunctional that the head of Measure Y didn’t even know the answer to these questions last week when I started asking what was up with the big meeting scheduled to discuss the status of “community policing” in Oakland. How can you schedule a meeting on the topic when you don’t even know who’s in charge of the topic? (The meeting was cancelled and has yet to be rescheduled).

    This is just yet another example of how City leaders spend hours, days, weeks, months and years talking about topics and putting together “plans” and then don’t follow up to make sure the plan is being implemented. In addition, they never try to to find out whether it is working. They are allowed to get away with this because most people stop paying attention after the crisis has been averted with a “plan.” Only with scrutiny from the press and lawsuits do they ever wake up, and then, only just barely.

  79. David

    Back to the original point. Sure a bunch of cops doesn’t GUARANTEE a safer city, if you assume they’re all going to be corrupt/incompetent, but if you think that the 1300 cops in Newark are pure, uncorrupted/uncorruptible souls, you need to set down the crack pipe.

    If the ‘Town could hire another 500 cops, I would bet a lot of money you’d see crime drop to Newarkian levels real quick. Think about how dense the cops would be between 66th and 109th avenues. You could post 10 cops per avenue, for Pete’s sake, and still have nearly 100 left over for the (geographically smaller) West Oakland streets.

  80. Ken O

    I don’t know who JB is (Councilwoman Jane Brunner?) but if former Police Chief Tucker screwed us over this bad, he should not be receiving our tax dollars to fund his expensive pension retirement!

    Bad performance = low payout.

    Just as it should be with AIG’s $100 billion of bailout money redirected to foreign banks and Goldman Sachs, not to mention a few puny executive bonuses.

  81. Max Allstadt

    Unfortunately, Tucker already has a contract for his retirement. That is usually the case for public employees, particularly at a higher level. It’s well nigh impossible to take that money away, which makes me wonder why people demand that as a punishment so often. (People said the same about Edgerly). I think you practically have to get convicted and incarcerated to lose your public pension.

    And JB? No, that would not be Jane Brunner. Not even close.

  82. JB

    Max- Chief Tucker was on the 3%/50 CalPERS Public Safety Plan, which vests after five years. He was previously on the Alameda County plan, which is different. He will continue to receive his county retirement but he will not receive any retirement money from CalPERS because he was hired in Feb05. His ignominious exit and consequent ineligibility hardly count as “punishment” but they are fitting.

  83. Ken O

    Re “JB” – just wondering. I’m sure all the city council members or at least their staff read this blog. It’s basically for Oakland.

    Max- I don’t think these people should receive full pension payouts if they are basically being fired. Same with AIG. People say “honor the contracts.”

    Well, AIG people made illegal contracts with Goldman Sachs and banks which they had no capital and therefore no intent to ever honor. This is called fraud.

    Edgerly, a city employee has been shown to be guilty of at least one crime (why wasn’t edgerly ever convicted for interfering with the police and obstructing justice?) – and Tucker failed in his duties to reduce crime and increase Oakland’s quality of life. Epic fail on both counts.

    of course, there are many reasons out of a police chief’s control and perhaps pensions shouldn’t be linked to performance here.

    but when he is shown to have purposefully destroyed dept morale and reduced crime-fighting and has nothing to show for it… and not listened to feedback – that is breakign the spirit of his employment contract. does anyone have a copy of his hiring papers?


  84. avis

    V, thanks for a very interesting article. It does seem like many Oaklanders deny the huge crime rates. I do think a 2 party system in this city would be helpful. I remember as a child asking my father why our home state always had one Democratic Senator and one Republican Senator. He said it was so they could police each other because that much power could easily corrupt even an honest politician. Hmmmm, maybe he had something there.

  85. annoyed

    Well, I see Don Perata is going to ride in on his trusty steed and save us. I can’t wait for him to start rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies like he did in Sacramento. A true leader for the 21st Century.

  86. fido

    Fill a city with black… any city anywhere… and you’ll get what Oakland has. Truth hurts… and I’m black.