Study credits ceasefire strategy for reducing gun violence in Oakland

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A new study indicates that a six-year-old strategy to reduce group-related gun violence in Oakland has resulted in a 32 percent reduction in gun homicides and a 43 percent decrease in gang-involved shootings. (KGO-TV)

A new study indicates that a six-year-old strategy to reduce group-related gun violence in Oakland has resulted in a 32 percent reduction in gun homicides and a 43 percent decrease in gang-involved shootings.

Researchers from Northeastern, Northwestern and Rutgers universities found that Operation Ceasefire, which was launched in 2012, has reduced the combined total of fatal and non-fatal shootings in Oakland by 52 percent since a peak in 2011.

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Operation Ceasefire is a strategy in which police, prosecutors, community leaders and service providers meet with reputed gang members to offer support and tell them that gun violence must stop.

"Our Ceasefire strategy is about changing behavior, not arresting our way out of the problem," Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement.

Schaaf said, "Our community has come together to offer individuals a new path forward, and this study proves that while we have made great strides to save lives and reduce the trauma of gun violence in our neighborhoods, we still have much work to do."

Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said, "The critical work that (Northeastern) Professor Anthony Braga and the team conducted validates the many years of collaborative efforts in reducing violent crime in Oakland."

The study concluded that less than one percent of Oakland's population was associated with two-thirds of the city's gun violence. It said Ceasefire focuses on intervening with the high-risk individuals who make up the one percent.

The study also showed no evidence that the gun violence had moved to surrounding neighborhoods or that demographic shifts in the city played a decisive role in the drop in crime.

Ceasefire Program Director Reygan Cunningham said, "The most important individuals that have contributed to this decrease are the young men who made the choice to live and be free because their lives and the lives of loved ones matter."

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Braga, who's the director of Northeastern's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said the success of Oakland's Ceasefire program has caught the attention of cities across the nation.

Braga said, "The city of Oakland deserves credit for the investments they've made to do this important work and to sustain it. They've put the structures in place to ensure its success, and a lot of other cities are now visiting Oakland to learn how to do it."

The study says that back in 2012 Oakland's homicide rate of 31.8 such deaths per 100,000 people was almost seven times higher than the national homicide rate of 4.7 per 100,000.

Researchers said although Operation Ceasefire has been successful, they found group members who participated in "call-ins" with police and service providers were still distrustful of the integrity of the confidential meetings.

The group members also said while violence has decreased in troubled neighborhoods, too much violence persists.

The report said, "There is also concern among respondents that call-ins are not always conducted in a respectful manner (e.g., they tend to feel coercive and exploitive), deepening clients' distrust of police and the overall criminal justice system."

In addition, the report said, "While the majority of study participants reported that police-community relations had steadily improved since 2012, almost every respondent identified the nationally- publicized sex scandal as a devastating setback that continues to undermine citizen trust."

The report was referring to a sexual misconduct scandal that came to light in 2016 involving the teenage daughter of an Oakland police dispatcher who allegedly had encounters with numerous officers from Oakland and other local law enforcement agencies. Twelve Oakland police officers were disciplined and four were charged with crimes.

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