Attorney General turns attention to Oakland gang problem

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder listens to a question from a member of the audience after speaking at a meeting of the California Cities Gang Prevention Network in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, May 10, 2010. Holder said he Obama administration will make combating gang violence a top priority through initiatives that focus on prevention, education and intervention. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

May 11, 2010 7:46:04 PM PDT
The gang problem in Oakland is getting the attention of the nation's top cop. On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder met with the mayor and the police chief at an East Oakland youth development center. Holder promised federal help, but avoided specifics.

Holder toured the campus of Youth Uprising, a non-profit organization dedicated to offering leadership and career opportunities to young people in communities plagued by gangs. He told reporters the Obama administration is committed to a comprehensive approach in combating gang violence.

"Too often we have the Justice Department doing one thing, the Department of Health and Human Services, doing another and the Department of Labor, Department of Education," said Holder.

We have got to break through those barriers said Holder and be more creative in crafting solutions. One tool that the Oakland's city attorney has been pushing is gang injunctions -- prohibiting known gang members from meeting with each other. When asked if he thought injunctions were effective, Holder side stepped.

"Well, I think you now we have to find all kinds of ways in which we can be creative. I'm not familiar with how effective that effort has been here," said Holder.

Holder said the administration has taken an enlightened view towards California's medical marijuana laws. He called off federal raids on pot clinics. However, when he was asked if he could support next Novembers ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, Holder said that's not kind of creativity he's advocating.

"Even though it might potentially have that revenue enhancing effect, I think it's a bridge too far. I don't think it's a good idea," said Holder.

Oakland Chief of Police Anthony Batts said Holder didn't promise federal resources in their closed door meeting, but he did listen.

"I said the rate of crime needs to be reduced so that we can have investments in the city and so the city can grow. He agreed with that and he listened to that," said Batts.

ABC7 asked the Batts if he asked Holder for federal assistance and the chief said he did, but wasn't willing to discuss specifics.