Oakland police shift priorities to guns, violence

February 7, 2012 6:13:16 PM PST
Oakland city leaders are shifting their priorities.

The first six weeks of the year have been extraordinarily violent and police have strained to deal with crime while also handling Occupy demonstrations. Already this year, Oakland has had 14 homicides. That is two more than this time last year. Police Chief Howard Jordan said Tuesday he is already devoting more resources to the city's hot spots to deal with the explosion of violent crime on the streets.

"We know that the spike in crime is linked between criminal activities and gangs in the city of Oakland," he said. In his second week as Oakland's permanent chief, Jordan is making it clear that fighting crime is his top priority. "Since this uptick in crime began, I have shifted additional resources to these hotspots to help deal with some of the shootings," he said.

The chief's comments come after Oakland had a particularly violent week including 20 shootings, five of them homicides. Police displayed some of the 20 illegal guns confiscated by his officers in the past month, nine of them found in just one house. Jordan says most of the violence has been committed by two sets of warring gangs. "We know that there's a feud linked to two rival groups in East Oakland and West Oakland," he said. "We need the community to step forward with information on these acts of violence."

Oakland Pastor Bob Jackson at Acts Full Gospel Church thinks the chief needs to do more. "I would've loved to hear chief say we need the highway patrol to come in and help. We need the state troopers to come in and help. This city's in a crisis. We've got an emergency," he said.

Oakland city council member Pat Kernighan is the chair of the public safety committee and said, "The first priority needs to be protecting the residents of Oakland." She said all the police resources devoted to Occupy demonstrators have undermined the city's ability to deal with violent crime. "That's what the chief talked about today. Despite all the distractions, all the antics of Occupy Oakland, he's keeping the focus on solving real crimes out in the neighborhoods."

To put things in perspective, Oakland has 200 fewer officers than the force had just three years ago. For that reason, Jordan says he will utilize all outside resources if possible, including the ATF. Oakland has set up a gun tip phone hotline for people to call in to report information about illegal guns. That number is 510-517-8793.


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