OPD report: No reduction in violent crime after North Oakland gang injunction
on November 9, 2011
On Tuesday night, the Public Safety Committee heard a report by the Oakland Police Department on the efficacy of the North Oakland gang injunction, meant to provide more insight into the effects of injunctions before the city implements additional ones. While the committee did not plan to make any decisions about the injunctions last night, a number of people showed up to express their support or anger over the injunctions.
A gang injunction is a civil court order restricting the movements of alleged gang members within a designated “safety zone.” The North Oakland injunction listed 15 alleged gang members and restricted them from associating with other gang members publicly, possessing drugs or weapons, being involved in gang recruitment, trespassing, confronting witnesses, or straying into the safety zone after curfews.
The OPD report concluded that the injunction against the North Side Oakland gang had consumed 2,700 man hours of police time and $133,000 since it came into effect in June, 2010. According to the report, what law enforcement officers call “Part 1” crimes—which include murders, shootings, aggravated assaults and robberies—have increased in the safety zone since the injunction by 43%, while arrests for Part 2 crimes, which are crimes of a lesser nature, such as possession of narcotics and weapons, decreased by 64%. The increase in Part 1 crime in the safety zone was 29%; more than the 15% increase in the rest of the city. The report also stated that overall change in crime statistics was not solely related to the injunction because 80 police officers were laid off shortly after the injunction was introduced, creating a significant reduction in police staffing.
The report stated that of the 15 people named in the injunction, seven had been arrested since the injunction was issued, with six being arrested outside the safety zone.
Many members of the Stop the Injunctions Coalition spoke at the meeting, talking about what they called the failure of the North Oakland injunction and what they described as its discriminatory nature. “The civic gang injunctions are costly and ineffective,” said Isaac Ontiveros, communications director for Critical Resistance, an organization working to stop the expansion of the prison industrial complex. “Police violence has been a point of stress and antagonism in the community for several years; these are the same police who will be implementing the injunctions.”
Members of the National Lawyers Guild were also critical of gang injunctions. Michael Siegel, an attorney with the group, said, “We’re dehumanizing people by using the term ‘public nuisance’ for them. You’re demonizing the area.” He said that injunctions should be replaced with restorative justice programs which seek to counsel and rehabilitate offenders through a variety of community-based activities.
Meanwhile, a group of business leaders expressed support for gang injunctions, with members from the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce speaking in their favor. “I say the injunction was successful, if for no other reason than the 15 named people have not committed a crime in the safety zone,” said public policy director Paul Junge.
The speakers were followed by a debate among the committee members, with Councilmember Nancy Nadel (District 3) speaking against the injunctions, and Council President Larry Reid (District 7) expressing his support for them.
“We’re looking for a method that stops criminal behavior, that doesn’t just move violence from one place to another,” Nadel said, referring to the portion of the report that concluded that Part 2 crimes had gone up in areas outside the safety zone. “Suspected gang members who are not responsible for serious crimes are held accountable for them. This is us saying, ‘You mess with us, we’re gonna mess with you!’”
“Over 100 youths were killed in homicides this year. Next year, a 100 more will be dead while we’re sitting here debating,” replied Reid. Addressing Nadel, he said, “I’ve been on the council longer than you have. I’ve seen young people dead, laying cold on the streets. If we continue to have this attitude, this will not be a safe place for our families!”
“I support gang injunctions and I will do that until God sucks the breath out of my mouth!” Reid concluded to loud hissing and booing from the crowd.
“I am so frustrated by hearing an argument that makes no sense,” said Nadel. “We all think murder is horrible, but this solution does not work!”
The committee ultimately decided to take no action on the report until a more detailed report by a third party can be submitted, rather than forwarding the OPD report on to the council.
The committee also heard a report on the Dark Skies Ordinance, a proposal to increase lighting in crime hotspots as a crime reduction technique, as well as a proposal to increase OPD officers around middle schools by 25 officers and a report on police staffing. The committee forwarded these to the city council for approval.
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