Oakland police host summit to fight gang violence

August 25, 2010 1:34:14 AM PDT
Oakland police are calling for help in dealing with the city's gang problem. They're getting it at a big summit on gangs.

The media were allowed to sit in on the first hour of the meeting and then asked to leave. That is because Oakland police said they had some very sensitive information to discuss about gangs in the city.

"Today, I put out a human cry that we need help, we need assistance and we can't do it alone," said Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts.

That plea for help was met with an overwhelming response. Representatives from the FBI, the Department of Justice, even the Secret Service showed up for this two day summit on how to stop gang crime on Oakland's streets.

"In a modern, contemporary city there is no excuse for the amount of lives that have been lost in this city," said Batts.

Lives that continue to be lost; two shootings Monday night bring the number of people killed to 54 so far this year, compared to 63 murders at this time last year. The first shooting happened around 9 p.m. in downtown Oakland, the second in West Oakland an hour later.

The U.S. attorney says the problem runs deep.

"We have communities that are plagued with drugs and violence. We have young people who drop out of school, who have no education, who don't have jobs, who can't find jobs. Sometimes those people turn to a life of crime which gives us all something to do," said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.

Oakland police are looking to Salinas as a model. Gang murders have dropped after police there turned to state and federal agencies for help.

But those working with Oakland's youth say this city's gang problem isn't as easy to spot. Many young people identified as gang members by police don't identify with a gang -- it's more about turf and neighborhood cliques.

"Our youngsters don't know they're in a gang until they go to court and it's proven in a court of law, especially our African American youth," said Street Outreach coordinator Kevin Grant.

The chief said that complex makeup of the gangs in Oakland makes it difficult to count how many members there are. The Alameda County sheriff said in the unincorporated areas of the county there may be gang affiliations for 1 out ever 100 residents.


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