"The city of Oakland has faced a horrible crime epidemic over the last six months at levels that are unacceptable," Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said as his department initiated new violence suppression tactics just last week. He is assigning 24 officers to overtime each weekend night to curb the violence but if city leaders have their way, that will only be the first step.
"We are looking at some unbelievable crime rates. It's horrendous what people are facing right now," city councilmembers Libby Schaaf said. No one understands that better than one East Oakland resident we'll refer to as Mr. Jones. "My house been shot into five times," he told ABC7 News. He, like so many others on his block, lives in fear. "Repercussion, see? We do that, we wind up dead. So therefore, I don't want to be seen. I want to live my life, the rest of my 80-something years," he said.
This was not the first time ABC7 News cameras had been to the neighborhood. On September 25, at least 38 rounds were fired in the middle of the day causing residents to take cover behind cars and bushes. ABC7 News was back less than two weeks later on October 2 to find police investigating a midday homicide that left even more shell casings on the ground from what police call an epidemic of illegal weapons.
"We just committed two extra officers to be on a task force with ATF to specifically go after firearms traffickers within this region," Jordan said. On Thursday, city councilmembers Libby Schaaf and Larry Reid began spearheading an effort to get Chief Jordan the help he needs by pushing to use money budgeted for the next fiscal year. Normally, they would have to wait to until July to change the city budget, but they say there is nothing normal about the situation or the growing violence in Oakland.
"We need to start the ball rolling to get every police officer that we are capable of hiring trained and hired," Schaaf said. None of this can come too soon for people like Mr. Jones who only want one thing. "I want peace and I pray that something be done in this area," he said.
Schaaf and Reid are asking that the city immediately prepare for another police academy and that they agree to hire 20 police technicians. And, if the Alameda County sheriff agrees to help with violence suppression, they are asking for an opportunity to review the agreement after 90 days.