An Oakland Police Department report detailing a rise in violent crime in the North Oakland gang injunction area was met with skepticism by the City Council’s Public Safety Committee last night, as support for the anti-gang tactic appears to falter. The North Side Oakland injunction was approved by an Alameda County judge in June 2010, restricting the movements and associations of 15 named individuals deemed to be gang members by Oakland Police.
According to the report, violent crimes such as murder, aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon and robberies increased by 43 percent from prior to the injunction.
“These are not good statistics,” said Councilmember Patricia Kernighan, the chair of the Public Safety Committee, echoing the remarks of the majority of the crowd in attendance.
OPD Lieutenant Freddie Hamilton presented the report to the committee, reaffirming Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan’s support for gang injunctions in spite of the rise in crime. In the report, OPD attribute the crime spike to the city’s decision to lay off 80 officers and disband the Problem-Solving Officer program in mid-2010. PSOs were critical to the initial gang injunction strategy, as they would have been responsible for presenting violations of the injunction to the City Attorney’s office for charging.
The divergence between OPD’s support for gang injunctions and the post-injunction data visibly upset some of those present. Oakland resident Stephanie Demos said she was “embarrassed” about OPD’s claims that the NSO injunction was effective and what she perceived as a low-balling of the program’s cost.
Defense Attorney Yolanda Huang pointed out the divergences between OPD’s stance on the issue and the department’s own statistics, “Clearly your own data does not support the efficacy of this approach.”
The Oakland Chamber of Commerce has been firmly in favor of gang injunctions since Oakland filed the North Oakland injunction in early 2010. Paul Junge, the Chamber’s director of public policy, said that regardless of the report’s statistical findings, the North Oakland injunction “seem[s] to be working” because the 15 people on the list had not committed violence in the area since the court order was approved.
Isaac Ontiveros, the communications director for Critical Resistance, reminded the councilmembers of the negative effect gang injunctions had on other crime reduction programs, such as the call-in program. “Gang injunctions kick other options off the table and exacerbate Oakland’s existing problems,” Ontiveros said.
Criticism of injunctions aside, a good portion of Tuesday evening’s discussion revolved around the potential of restorative justice programs such as the now-defunct pilot program at Cole Elementary program some years back. Councilmember Nancy Nadel, whose district includes the West Oakland area once served by Cole Elementary (now a substation for the Oakland Schools Police), said she would like to see Oakland shift towards restorative justice and away from headline-grabbing programs with questionable results. “I’m tired of the same base of the brain, quick draw solutions that leave us with the same problems we’ve had for decades,” Nadel said.
East Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid, an unapologetic supporter of gang injunctions, stood by his position even following a nasty exchange with Nadel over who had been to more homicide scenes over the years. “I support gang injunctions, and will continue to do so til God sucks the breath out of my body,” said Reid. Despite his combative tone, Reid surprisingly offered an olive branch to gang injunction opponents with whom he has sparred for more than two years.
“I’m extremely proud of all of you, because you haven’t given up the fight, you haven’t backed down,” Reid said.