Magazine article Brookings Review

Fighting Crime in Oakland

Magazine article Brookings Review

Fighting Crime in Oakland

Article excerpt

Although national and state leaders often expound on the problem of crime, it is at the local level where crime reduction takes place. The gritty, issues involved in reducing violence and disorder are ultimately handled by mayors and police chiefs. My own city of Oakland has adopted a tough but thoughtful strategy based on technology and intense neighborhood organizing.

Since 1992, Oakland's homicides have dropped 70 percent. Overall crime is down 20 percent in the past 12 months. The Oakland Plan has four components: strategic community policing, careful and daily measurement of crime, intensive staff training, and city supervision of state parolees from state prison--about 3,000 in Oakland at any one time.

First, Oakland hired 19 civilian employees to organize residents into crime-prevention councils and neighborhood alert groups. The councils convene regularly and bring together the police, city personnel, and community activists to discuss matters of mutual concern. This citizen involvement breaks down the walls that separate neighbors from each other and from the police. Oakland has fewer than 700 sworn officers for a city of 400,000--way below the national average. Unless a thoughtful effort is made to involve people in defending their own neighborhoods, the underground economy of crime and violence inevitably takes over. City staff alone cannot do the job. Safe neighborhoods require a partnership based on citizen activism and neighborhood dialogue.

Second, for the first time ever, Oakland has started compiling and disseminating crime data on a daily basis. Using a geographical information system, the police department makes crime statistics available to all its personnel and to the public. Through Internet crime maps that are updated daily, trends are spotted quickly and action is promptly taken. The information is collected by beat--there are 57 in the city--thus establishing the basis for both competition and accountability. …

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