Homicides in Oakland, California have surged 400% citywide in 2021, according to the latest crime analysis data shared by the city’s police department.
The Oakland Police Department’s Weekly Gunfire Summary for the week of Feb. 22-28 reported a total of 25 homicides citywide in 2021, compared to just five in 2020 and 13 in 2019.
Area 1, covering West and Downtown Oakland, has seen a 200% surge in homicides. Meanwhile Area 3, covering Fruitvale and Central Oakland, and Area 4, covering East Oakland, Mills and Leona, both have seen homicide surges of 100%, respectively.
Area 5, covering East Oakland and Knowland Park, have seen homicides surge 1300%.
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The latest data comes as a task force established following the death of George Floyd and amid calls to defund the Oakland police moved forward with a series of draft recommendations last week, according to a report by Fox 2.
Following the release of the draft recommendations on Feb. 12, the Defund Oakland Police coalition released its own report sharing its feedback for the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force.
Members of the coaltiion reportedly said during a Zoom meeting on Feb. 24. that they disagrees with only six of the 114 recommendations put forward by the task force.
A recommendation strongly supported by the coalition is proposed funding for a non-police response to mental health calls. James Burch, policy director at the Anti Police-Terror Project and a member of the public safety task force, said that as many as 50% of individuals killed by law enforcement were having a mental health crisis and many of those are Black and brown people.
“We need experts to approach mental health crises with care and compassion, not a badge and a gun,” Burch said. “We need to make the shift and we need to make it now.”
Other proposed measures with strong support include a public health response to substance abuse, the expansion and funding for existing harm reduction services, creation of a mobile street outreach team to help homeless people, and shutting down Oakland Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Unit.
Saabir Lockett, special projects coordinator of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, argued the “only rational way forward is to actively divest from policing and invest in the programs and services that are proven to support communities and increase safety,” noting that a shift in culture at the police department “is not what is required.”
The community can provide their input on the draft recommendations between March 1 and 12. A listening session is scheduled for March 9. The City Council is scheduled to consider the draft recommendations on April 1 and final recommendations are due to the Oakland City Council on April 20.
More information about the task force, and the full list of the draft recommendations, can be found here.
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The City of Oakland announced $29 million in immediate spending cuts and other cost-savings measures in December to begin to close a projected $62 million budget deficit.
Those cuts include approximately $9 million towards general personnel and spending cuts, including a hiring freeze for non-sworn civilian positions, a reduction in the use of temporary staff, a further reduction of unspent funds carried forward from last fiscal year, pay reductions for senior staff not represented by a labor group, and a discretionary spending freeze.
In addition, Oakland is cutting the OPD budget by $15 million by reducing overtime, specialized units and programs and the Oakland Fire Department budget by $5 million by closing three fire stations between January and June.
According to the city, the OPD exceeded its budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 by more than $32 million.
“The Q1 (first quarter) expenditure forecast for the current year similarly projects OPD exceeding its budget. Reduced services are immediately necessary to address the City’s precarious fiscal condition,” the city said in a press release. “OPD does not recommend any service cuts due to the City’s ongoing and escalating violent crime problem, but recognizes and embraces the need to achieve immediate savings due to increasing budgetary shortfalls. These reductions preserve core services of patrol and investigation, ensuring that the basic work of the department can continue.”
Despite the savings from the cuts, the city noted that a deficit of $33 million still remains, which officials said will be addressed by “further reductions in services or seeking employee concessions.”
“These actions will certainly have an impact on our ability to deliver critical services to Oakland residents, but are necessary to ensure the solvency of the City’s [General Purpose Fund],” the city said.
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