By Brittany Nieto,
The city of Oakland, situated in the heart of Alameda County, has struggled with a gun violence crisis for decades. In the last few years, Oakland has started to turn its story around. In 2018, the city reported its lowest number of homicides in almost 20 years. According to an independent evaluation by researchers at Northeastern and Rutgers universities, the city’s evidence-based, community driven violence reduction strategy, Oakland Ceasefire, has contributed significantly to this decline.
Launched at the urging of community groups in 2012 in the midst of surging violence, Oakland Ceasefire is a partnership between law enforcement, social services, and the community and is based on the Ceasefire model, also known as focused deterrence or Group Violence Intervention. Developed by criminologist David Kennedy in the 1990s, the model aims to reduce gun violence by focusing on the small segment of the city—usually less than 1% of the population—responsible for the vast majority of shootings and killings.
Oakland Ceasefire partners are united in their mission to reduce gun violence and help prevent the untimely death or incarceration of young men in the community, goals that the city of Oakland has learned are inexorably linked.
In Oakland, a parking and parcel tax, passed by ballot initiative in 2014, provides $20 million dollars in funding for violence prevention services and community policing. Measure Z enabled the city to create real, accessible alternatives to violence in the form of a robust, coordinated network of services that provide everything from educational support and job training to mentoring and crisis response.
Law enforcement also had to dramatically change the way it policed the city.
Community-police relations in Oakland have historically been among the most precarious in the country, a barrier that needed to be eliminated to properly implement the Ceasefire model. To achieve that aim, the Oakland Police Department shifted its focus away from low-level drug offenses and property crimes to an intelligence-led policing strategy focused on individuals at imminent risk for committing serious acts of violence. In doing so, the OPD minimized its footprint in the community, improving community relations which contributed significantly to Oakland’s astounding 50% reduction in shootings and homicides.
At the same time gun violence dropped precipitously in Oakland, OPD’s homicide solve rate has improved while arrests and use of force complaints have declined.
Oakland’s success in recent years provides a model for cities across the nation that are impacted by gun violence. Take an in-depth look at Oakland’s violence reduction strategy with the latest report from Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, A Case Study in Hope: Lessons from Oakland’s Remarkable Reduction in Gun Violence, and trace Oakland’s ongoing journey to create a safe and thriving community.
Brittany Nieto is a Research Analyst at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence