Oakland city leader praise community-led initiatives for drop in crime

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- City leaders are celebrating the 11 percent drop in all serious crimes in the Oakland.

"This represents an unprecedented six-year reduction in homicides and injury shootings, combined," says Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff.

The mayor admits, more works needs to be done, but is encouraged by the results. It's the city's lowest homicide rate in almost 20 years. They have improved in other areas as well, such as a 25 percent drop in auto burglaries.

Oakland police officials say they are not doing random policing anymore. They are focused on strategies aimed at results.

"The goal isn't arresting people, the goal is breaking the cycle of violence," explains Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. "The mantra needs to be-- Put your guns down!"

Captain Ersie Joyner says they have been focused on community-lead initiatives, which build community trust, which in turn bring results. He says one of the strategies has been crime prevention and intervention.

"What we have tried to do over the last six year is eliminate gang violence, tried to engage with those who want to eliminate violence and embrace those who wanted a different way to do different things," he says.

One such program is Operation Ceasefire, aimed at reducing gang-related gun violence. He says it has been so effective that big cities like Chicago and New Orleans are now looking to Oakland's model to implement in their cities as well.

Fanisha Asayastch, who grew up in East Oakland, thinks the community approach is working.

"People are reporting (crime) a little faster," she says.

Asayastch believes a change in the relationship with police is working to increase trust, but also says it's also about the community stepping up when the city falls short.

"Since we feel like the police isn't working fast enough, and we aren't getting the right amount of justice, I feel like us as a community, (with) one voice, we can do a lot," says Asayastch.

But not everyone is encouraged by Oakland's progress.

"I felt like it got a little better, but still enough crime (to cause us) to move," says Giselle Cortes. "I loved living in Oakland, except for the crime."

Cortes says their family car was broken into several times, right in front of their house in Rockridge. Fed up, their family decided to move to El Sorbante.

"I remember when I first moved out, more cops blaring down my road," says Ellen O'Reilly, who has lived in North Oakland for the past six years. She says things are changing. She believes community engagement is making the difference.

"There seems to be more of a community. More contact with neighbors and building a neighborhood community looking out (for one another)," says O'Reilly.

Captain Joyner says some of Oakland's roughest neighborhoods like east Oakland are actually seeing some of the biggest drops in violent crimes.

When asked, city leaders insist that gentrification is not behind the reduction in crime stats.

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