At least 535 illegal firearms have been recovered in Oakland since the beginning of the year amid calls by civic groups and members of council for the city prioritize the eradication of illicit firearms and reduce the prevalence of gun crimes.
City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan last week called on the City of Oakland to formally declare the fight against gun crimes its top public safety priority. In a joint resolution with local civic group Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) and members of the church group TrueVine Ministries, Kaplan challenged the city to devote more resources to the fight against crimes involving firearms.
“We must stand in solidarity with members of our community,” Kaplan said. “Taking action to stop the epidemic of gun violence on our streets is our top priority.”
Oakland Police Department spokesperson Christopher Bolton this week said the force had recovered 535 firearms between January 1 and July 18, 2012, a period during which the department has deployed new firearms policing methods, including the launch of a gun hotline for citizens to report illegal guns and the introduction of joint policing operations with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). As part of the gun recovery program, the ATF offers whistleblowers a $5,000 reward for information leading to either an arrest or prosecution of a crime involving the reported firearms.
So far, no one has collected payment for a tip since the beginning of the program five months ago, said Bolton. Bolton said that due to the lack of a system to distinguish between firearms confiscated during routine policing operations and those recovered as a result of public tip-offs, none of the firearms recovered yet can directly be linked to public use of the hotline.
Overall, based on the figures from the Oakland Police Department, the number of firearms recovered by the OPD has declined significantly since the city cut resources from its special firearms and narcotics policing programs in 2010 due to budget cuts. In 2009, the OPD recovered 1,551 firearms. That number dropped to 1,224 in 2010, dipping further to just 981 in 2011.
However, Bolton said that comparisons of firearms recovery figures in recent years may be skewed by a number of factors, including the sharp decline in manpower and resources within the force. Since 2009, there has been major reduction in the OPD’s manpower, from over 800 officers to the current 640 officers. “We simply do not have as many officers now than in past years focused on proactive narcotics and gun-related arrests,” Bolton said.
The city’s Police Communications Dispatch center, which handles incoming emergency calls from members of the public, was manned by only 62 dispatchers as of June, 2012, compared to 68 in June, 2011. Bolton said efforts are underway to fully staff the dispatch center following the council approval last month of requests to hire more dispatchers to bring the number up to 70 dispatchers.