This evening’s meeting of the Oakland City Council’s Public Safety Committee was summed up in an off-the-cuff exchange between Police Chief Anthony Batts and District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid . Batts had just finished presenting his updated strategic plan for the Oakland Police Department (included below, of course), which detailed the city’s high crime rate, poor clearance rates and forewarned of further difficulties if a second round of officer layoffs goes through later this year.
Upon finishing his presentation, Batts turned away from the podium and walked back towards his staff in the aisle of the hearing room. Reid, with a grim look on his face, quipped “Thanks chief, that was very depressing.”
“Welcome to my world” Batts replied without missing a beat, setting off laughter throughout the hearing room.
This moment of much-needed levity aside, Chief Batts is enjoying a far more trying introduction to his new post than his counterpart in San Francisco. In sharp contrast to Chief George Gascón’s self-laudatory assessment of his first year in charge, the strategic plan’s assessment of crime and policing in Oakland paints some stark truths about a city that is facing a $31 million deficit and is ranked among the most violent in America.
I’ll break down the report in more detail in following posts (and you’re more than welcome to read it below and let us know your thoughts), but here are some of the facts that struck us.
- Crime is on a three-year decline in Oakland – yet the city still has roughly 1,600 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, far more than comparable cities in California which average about 659 crimes per 100,000 residents. The homicide rate (24.5 murders per 100,000 residents) is about three times that of Fresno (8.5 murders per 100,000 residents), a city of comparable size (and a smaller police department).
- Response times are far behind the state averages. 911 calls are answered in about 17 seconds as opposed to a statewide average of 6.4 seconds. As a result, 14.4 percent of all emergency calls are abandoned. Response time for Priority 1 service calls is 14.8 minutes on average, Priority 2 calls take about 71 minutes to respond to, and Priority 3 calls mean an officer probably won’t show up for two hours and eighteen minutes.
- Both patrol and investigations divisions sections are understaffed and overburdened. Unsurprisingly, many crimes are not getting solved. Last year, OPD had a 29 percent clearance rate for violent crime, and a four percent clearance rate for property crimes. State averages are 39 and 11 percent, respectively.
- If a $360-per-resident parcel tax updating Measure Y are not passed by Oaklanders in this November’s elections, a lack of funds would mean a further 122 police officers would be laid off in January in addition to the 80 let go in July. If that scenario comes to pass, said Chief Batts, OPD would have roughly 540 sworn officers, the lowest staffing levels in fifty years