Since arriving from Long Beach a little over a year ago, Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts has made a point of reaching out to community members and rebuilding the sometimes fractious relationship between residents and OPD. This priority was on full display last night at the department’s second public CompStat meeting, held at the Oakland Museum of California in front of a crowd of roughly sixty people.
CompStat is a computerized crime-tracking program made famous in the 1990s by the New York Police Department. The program has been hailed as one of the driving reasons behind New York City’s drastic crime reductions over the past 20 years – and it has also been blamed for pressuring NYPD officers to “cook the books” in order to produce favorable statistics.
We’ll have a complete breakdown of the meeting after the jump. For those who want the abridged version, here are the main points of note from last night
- Total Part I crimes (both property and violent) are down roughly 2,800 from this point in 2009.
- Oakland has 72 murders to date, down from 90 last year. However, 30 homicides have occurred in Area 1 (North and West Oakland) – all but three killings took place West Oakland.
- While robberies and burglaries citywide are down two and nine percent, respectively, there has been a disturbing 40 percent rise in residential break-ins. Many of these are taking place in Area 2, which extends from Lake Merritt down to High Street.
- OPD is doing very concerted gang enforcement throughout the city. Tools such as gang injunctions, call-ins and targeted enforcement. Chief Batts also hinted at the forthcoming roll-out of a planned anti-gang initiative with federal and state law enforcement.
- The approval of Measure BB by Oakland voters means that OPD will keep the popular problem-solving officer program. 75 officers will be reassigned as PSOs – however, the personnel shuffle will also involve the elimination of crime reduction teams and the traffic division, as well as a reduction in the already-thin criminal investigations staff.
- With resources stretched thin – OPD has 670 officers, about 250 fewer than Batts would like – OPD, the Oakland Unified School District and the Alameda County District Attorney are undertaking a school-based mentoring and policing program at four target middle schools – and asking for citizens to volunteer their time.
At the session, Chief Batts and his command staff of Assistant Chief Howard Jordan, Deputy Chief of Operations Eric Breshears and Deputy Chief of Investigations Jeff Israel alternated between questioning the three patrol area captains about crime trends, explaining police terminology to the audience, and proposing crime-fighting initiatives.
The opening of Oakland CompStat meetings mirrors the efforts of San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón, who has been holding SFPD’s bi-weekly statistical review in public since January. However, SFPD’s CompStat sessions are typically held at 10 AM at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center in the Outer Sunset, and are seldom attended by anyone other than police, reporters or other city officials. The first OPD CompStat session last month was held in the morning, but the time was changed to the evening following requests by the public.
Consequently, the large turnout in Oakland last night made for a completely different dynamic. While the SFPD sessions are essentially internal meetings that the public is allowed to attend, the OPD session self-consciously played to the audience. Chief Batts and his staff freely cracked jokes and fed off the applause that greeted news of crime reductions.
Oakland has been roiled by large protests and civil disturbances over the past few years. “I believe I’ve had more crowd control situations in Oakland in one year than I did as police chief in Long Beach,” Chief Batts told the audience with a wry smile on his face. In pitching his schools-based intervention policy, Batts threw down the gauntlet to protesters, urging them to back up their words with action and get involved in the joint OPD-OUSD-Alameda DA initiative “No, justice no peace starts right now. No rhetoric, no talk, no gimmicks,” said Batts, appropriating a phrase often heard during protests against police violence. “You want to make a difference? Start right now.”