Oakland sees increase in violent crimes in 2019

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- There was a seven percent increase in violent crimes in Oakland in 2019 from the year before, according to Oakland Police Chief Ann Kirkpatrick.

"It is indeed always a disappointment when you see any increase in crime, which we did see this past year," she says.

Oakland city officials, including Chief Kirkpatrick, discussed the latest figures Monday morning along with laying out new strategies for crime prevention to make the city safer in 2020.

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Kirkpatrick says there were also seven more homicides in 2019 from 2018, some of which can be blamed on an increase in gang violence.

"We had some homicides that were related to gangs that we do not typically see become active in conflict. So, that was a new event (last) year," she explains.

Kirkpatrick also talk about the emergence of super gangs: smaller gang joining together to form larger ones.

And as is happening in cities around the Bay Area, Oakland also had a spike in property crimes, which includes car break-ins and stolen laptops. As a result, Oakland is forming a task force with the cities of Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont and San Leandro to tackle the issue.

"We will each be giving two officers, per month, to come together and to work in each other's jurisdictions with a focus on those auto (burglaries)," says Kirkpatrick. She says it's based on a model used by the San Francisco Police Department, which saw a dramatic reduction in breaks-in.

Guillermo Cespedes was named chief of the new Department of Violence Prevention, back in September. His job is to look at socio-economic issues, such as income inequality, homelessness and food insecurity, that lead to crime.

Part of his work is to bring together community groups to build stronger relationships with law enforcement in effort bring about a drop in crime.

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"We don't get involved in arresting people, but we do get involved in the relationship between police and the community," says Cespedes, who has garnered national acclaim for his work with gangs in Los Angeles.

Kyndra Simmons is the intervention director at the non-profit Youth Alive!, which does outreach to people impacted by violence. She likes the approach Chief Cespedes' department is taking.

"We need to heal the community. People need to feel safe in the community. And that's something that Chief Cespedes has talked about. And that's the direction we need to move for the City of Oakland," says Simmons.
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