Above map shows homicides in Oakland between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011. Yellow dots represent individual homicides while the colored areas represent how many homicides occurred within a zip code. A number of dots represent multiple homicides. Data sourced from Oakland Police Department.
In 2011, there were 103 reported homicides in Oakland. Most of the victims were young black males who were killed with firearms in East and West Oakland. This is a continuation of a pattern in Oakland that has been the case for years and is closely tied to the economic and social realities of young people living in the city’s poorest areas.
The number of homicides in the city have been in a general decline since a peak of 145 homicides in 2006, with this year seeing a slight increase from that trend. But if there is anything that makes 2011 different than past years, it is that three of those homicide victims were children under the age of 6.
“That was alarming. For law enforcement, we don’t want to see any victims of gun violence,” said Oakland Police Department press spokesperson Officer Johnna Watson. “But what pulls at our heart strings is when there’s babies and small children, and that’s totally unacceptable in our society.”
It started with the killing of Carlos Nava, a 3-year-old child, in August during a drive-by shooting on International Boulevard. Then in early December, Hiram Lawrence, a 1-year-old child, was killed in West Oakland from a stray bullet. And finally, Gabriel Martinez Jr. — 5 years old — was killed while with his father outside a taco truck on International Boulevard. The last time a young child was killed Oakland was in 1997, when a 7-year-old child was shot and killed.
Those tragedies aside, homicides continue to be largely concentrated in Oakland’s poorest areas — East and West Oakland — and the victims continue to be mainly the city’s black young men. Of the 103 homicides last year, 74 percent of the victims were black despite making up only 28 percent of the city’s population, according to the 2010 Census. In terms of age, 47 percent of homicide victims were 25 years old or younger.
Olis Simmons, Executive Director at Youth Uprising, an East Oakland-based youth center, said that when overlapping crime data with economic data, it shows that “all of the failures of society coexist in similar places.” In other words, there is a correlation between the gun violence that claims the lives of young adults of color, she said, and economic and social disparities in East and West Oakland communities, including the lack of markets providing affordable and healthy food, failing schools, high teen pregnancy rates, and high unemployment.
“There’s no correlation between poverty and crime,” Simmons said, “but there is a correlation between the poor in wealthy environments and crime.”
The charts below show Oakland’s homicides in 2011 grouped by age, month, time of day, and in comparison to other similarly-sized cities. All data was sourced from the Oakland Police Department.