By Desley Brooks
Oakland needs a comprehensive crime reduction plan that includes a crime gun reduction strategy. The sound of gunshots and their devastating aftermath is becoming far too common in our great city.
A one-year-old baby shot to death along with his father while laying in bed; an eight-year-old girl shot to death when answering the door at a friend’s house; an off-duty paramedic shot as he was returning home after a visit with his father – this senseless gun violence has a stranglehold on our community.
Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent has stated, “Ceasefire is my number one crime strategy to reduce violent crime in our city. “
This program identifies the most violent criminal offenders and provides options and services to them if they stop the violence. But Cease Fire alone will not, and cannot, address the availability of illegal guns that are the primary weapon used in a significant number of violent crimes perpetrated in Oakland.
Gun violence will decrease when OPD moves beyond simply responding to 911 calls and Shotspsotter notifications.
According to the International Association of Chief’s of Police (IACP) while a swift response to incidents of gun violence is critical, it is not enough to be reactive.
Given the potential of intelligence- led and data-driven policing and the move towards “predictive policing,” agencies must perform a strategic review of their current operations and develop a multifaceted plan to address the gun violence problems specific to their communities.
There are far too many guns on the streets of Oakland. If we want to get a handle on violent crime the Oakland Police Department needs to develop a comprehensive crime gun reduction strategy.
According to Special Agent Mark Kraft Project Safe Neighborhoods Program Manager, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, “It is important for every community to determine the origin of its crime guns. If law enforcement does not uncover the source of a crime gun, the community they serve is destined to repeat the cycle of violence, as more guns from the same source will repeatedly be used to victimize the public.”
During the last two years, I have suggested three programs to the City Administrator and/or Police Chief, and had another program approved by the council that would help OPD identify the sources of its crime guns.
All of these programs have been successful in other jurisdictions. Oakland could benefit by adopting any, or all, of these as part of a crime gun reduction strategy:
Debrief All Gun Offenders – All suspects arrested with firearms during the commission of a crime, who are offered a plea agreement, would be required to undergo a thorough debriefing regarding the firearm prior to entering the plea agreement.
Information captured by debriefing suspects can support predictive policing actions and enable local law enforcement to interdict crime guns and prevent the associated violence.
Establish a Firearms Offender Registry – Similar to a sex offender registry, firearms offender registries are computerized listings of persons previously convicted of a felony firearms violation or a misdemeanor crime that involved a violent or threatening act with a firearm.
Consent to Search — parents of high-risk youth would give the police permission to search their homes for guns that their children might have. The guns found would be confiscated, with no follow-up prosecution.
Finally, in February of this year I introduced legislation, which was adopted by the Council, urging the City Administrator to request that the Chief of Police send letters to prospective gun purchasers informing them of their responsibilities as a gun owner; and that failure to honor their responsibilities would result in prosecution.
Oakland has been operating under the false impression that because there are no gun stores in Oakland, guns aren’t coming into our city. Currently OPD has no idea how many legal and/or illegal guns are coming into our City.
Although OPD could request information from the California Department of Justice on the legal guns coming into the city; they do not. Despite the low cost to implement this program and its potential benefits, neither the City Administrator or Chief of Police have made any effort to implement the program.
There are too many guns on the streets of Oakland. If we want to see a decrease in violent crime OPD must have better intelligence on the driver of the majority of our violent crime, guns. The continued failure of OPD to adopt a comprehensive crime reduction plan that includes a crime gun reduction strategy puts us all in peril.
Desley Brooks is a member of the Oakland City Council representing District 6.