Some sunnier news

I feel like this blog has been kind of depressing lately, and I don’t really like that. So I’d like to highlight some at least somewhat cheerier news.

Here’s one about a program some community members are working on to reduce crime:

The program targets people between the ages of 18 and 35 and focuses on prevention, intervention and enforcement. Program officials will try to place people in jobs and then monitor their success.

“Street outreach workers have the ability to deliver on commitments to provide employment for people caught up in cycles of violence and homicide,” said Ron Snyder, Oakland Community Organization’s executive director.

The Oakland Community Organization started working on the program in October. Then community members met in February, April and May to discuss the program, Snyder said. In June, the mayor’s office and other potential project partners examined the idea, Snyder said.

It is not known how much the program will cost, where the money will come from or when it will become a reality, but given a recent spike in violence, the pressure is on.


I hope it works out for them. I have no problems with violence prevention and job training programs – in general I think we should have more of them. But I find it very frustrating that the Mayor’s office seems to focus only on prevention. What I’d really like to see come out of City Hall is a way to augment our police force. Temporary CHP patrols are nice, but what we really need is long-term, sustainable funding for more officers of our own. Still, I’m happy to see residents getting out there and trying to make a difference.

I’m not so sure how I feel about this one:

Oakland Saturday kicked off its rededication of 23 parks and recreation centers as a stand against rising violence in the city.

For every rededication, the city will label each park a drug-free zone and will erect a peace pole as a visual protest against crime, according to parks and recreation.

Not really sure how a peace pole is going to make any difference, but I do think its nice to see people using their public parks. (BTW, if hanging out in the park is your thing, the City is showing Mad Hot Ballroom at dusk in Mosswood Park tonight. I think it looks sweet.)

8 thoughts on “Some sunnier news

  1. Deckin

    I’ve thought about working up a piece to either submit somewhere or put up somewhere but if I may, I’d like to try the gist of it out here.

    The current mantra (from Dellums and even OPD, who should know better) is that ‘we can’t arrest our way out of the problem’. Well, this seems to me completely belied by one glaring counter example: Piedmont. OPD is also fond of noting the fact that crime has moved into traditionally safe areas of Oakland because ‘that’s where the money is’. Now put this all together with Piedmont in mind and you get what I would call the Piedmont Paradox.

    How is it that an area with even more money than Montclair and Rockridge, which is much closer to East Oakland than either, manages to have none of the crime problems of the newly afllicted areas of Oakland, on the assumptions stated by OPD and Dellums? One could see how Temescal is vulnerable: they’re right next to some pretty dicey places (unbeknownst to Victor Ochoa). But Montclair? To get to it from East Oakland, thugs have to tip toe quite nicely around a very difficult to discern border (one that few Oaklanders could descry) and head right for parts Oakland. What accounts for this feat, which demonstrates no small acumen on their part? Methinks that they know full well that their chances of both arrest and prosecution are orders of magnitude higher than in demographically similar parts of Oakland and they do what all rational actors do: they make the calculation and act accordingly.

    But wait, that would mean you can arrest your way out of the problem! But wait, that would mean that criminals are not simplistic naifs with no ability to calculate the costs and benefits of their actions, but, rather, are quite rationally figuring out the easiest means to a not undesirable end: free stuff. Of course, the Dellumsian response would be that this doesn’t solve the crime problem, it merely moves it along. Well, why exactly is it the burden of any city to solve the problem of crime, tout court? Isn’t making their citizens safe enough? Is Piedmont failing for not solving the crime problem? Oh, but it’s not Piedmont’s problem, it’s Oakland’s. Well, would someone explain to me what kind of karmic connection I or my neighbors have to the problems of criminals in East and West Oakland that residents of Piedmont don’t? Why do they get off scott free? How did I land this job?

    Well, says the Dellums, we should go after the roots of crime. Hmm, as far as I can tell, the roots of crime are basic human nature and a pretty good dollop of ignorance and lack of impulse control. But those are also the roots of adultery. Does the Dellums think we can get at the roots of that too?

    Anyway, some thoughts.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    Deckin, you’re always welcome to share your thoughts here. You also may want to consider composing a MyWord for the Trib.

    I don’t think it is appropriate to dismiss trying to address the root causes of crime entirely. Many of the young people terrorizing the community have been raised in poverty and with poor parenting, failed by our education system, and see little or no meaningful opportunities for bettering their lives. Ultimately, they need to face consequences if they choose to behave criminally. But we should try to offer them hope as well. I’m with Dellums on that one. My problem with what Dellums is doing is that he only seems to want to approach the problem from one end.

    Dellums’s website said that his public safety agenda was supposed to be posted there today, but so far they haven’t uploaded it. I’ll post again here once they do and I have a chance to read through it.

  3. Deckin

    Smoothe,

    I’m all for meaningful hope too and I think that (or, rather, its lack) is a big part of the problem. But I don’t see the two ends of the approach as fundamentally different. I think the carrot and the stick are part of the same thing. What I mean is that meaningful opportunities show up against a background of possible options. What is and isn’t a meaningful opportunity is relative to other options one takes to be live ones, given where one is. In that sense, the consequences of some options play a very real part in whether other ones are meaningful or not. Given social opprobrium, a possibility of confinement, and other unpalatable consequences, I imagine what is and isn’t a meaningful opportunity would look different than it would without those consequences. After all, many many people find meaningful lives in occupations that perhaps many of our problem children would scoff at–but that’s because the opportunities for our problem children include ones that people who would only do honest work wouldn’t take, for whatever reason. 10$ an hour at Best Buy (or staying in school) doesn’t look meaningful when compared to thousands of dollars a week and little chance of capture selling drugs. But make the cost of selling drugs higher and all of a sudden, Best Buy (or better yet, staying in school) doesn’t look so bad and looks quite meaningful. Kids in Piedmont won’t make the same bargain because for them, meaningful careers are much more vividly present, in their parents and the like. Now, we can’t exchange parents (though mentoring is a great thing), so public policy can only work with the tools it has, and a big one is putting a finger on the scale to make the self interested choice the pro social one too.

    In short, a waiting stick can make lots of things taste like carrots.

  4. E. Gonsalves

    I have to agree with Deckin.

    These kids running the streets were fortunate enough to be born into the richest country in the world, and into a country which offers hope and opportunity to just about anyone willing to work hard and play by the rules. If indeed it was the system’s fault, then no one from similar socio economic backgrounds would make it. The mere fact that many people succeed despite the odds tells us that it is possible.

    The problem lies in the fact that some people are not interested in developing a work ethic, and would much rather sell dope on the street for the lure of fast money. And, how is it societies responsibility to prevent these thugs from committing these heinous crimes? Just this week, in North Oakland, some guy was killed after asking for directions and then giving the guy that gave him direction a ride. The motorist was shot in the back in cold blood. Now, what kind of program is going to stop an animal like that particular thug from harming people? Heck, Yeah! Arrest as many of these animals as you can.

    The sheer mayhem that the people of Oakland put up with on a daily basis is amazing to me. The side shows, the vandalism, the garbage, the graffiti, loud music, reckless driving, assaults, robberies, shootings, etc, etc. How does one city tolerate so much mayhem? The solution in the minds of some local politicians is more affordable housing in order to make sure that fringe elements in society continue to live in, and slowly continue destroying the city of Oakland. Let’s make sure we keep the dredges of society in our city. Let’s make sure that the ones who constantly make life intolerable for the majority have a roof over their heads in our city. Let’s make sure the graffiti vandals and the good citizens who can’t even carry their garbage from the bus stop to the trash can five feet away, continue gracing our city with their contributions.

    I say, arrest as many of these thugs and hoodlums as possible. Make the city of Oakland safe for the average resident.