Friday, December 9, 2011

2011-12-09 "Jean Quan's crime plan faces obstacles, skeptics" by Matthai Kuruvila from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Nearly two months after Oakland Mayor Jean Quan unveiled her plan to restore order and safety to what she said are 100 of the city's most violent blocks, her administration refuses to name the 100 blocks or detail how it will increase safety.
Quan promised to concentrate police and city services on those blocks - which are a fraction of the sprawling 78-square-mile city - in an effort she said will deal with 90 percent of the city's crime.
But the plan has hit several obstacles, which her office said are largely caused by Occupy Oakland. Quan and interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said police, in recent weeks, had been too busy with Occupy protests and encampments to answer many 911 calls, particularly in the 100-block area.
Yet, even before the plan's introduction Oct. 15, some residents were skeptical it would be anything more than paperwork.
"I'm not confident they're going to do anything," said Ishaminea Wilkins, 19, an East Oakland resident who lives within a seven-block area that has had 105 shootings in the past two years. The violence in East Oakland, she said, has "been going on for too long."
Quan's 22-page plan includes charts, photos, statistics, quotes, a cartoon, and lists and outlines. It lists goals such as "Make Oakland neighborhoods safe" and "Reduce Homicides and Shootings," but does not explain in detail how the city would achieve its goals. Quan has said the plan was the result of months of work.

Mayor's top priority -
Quan, who is facing a recall campaign, touts her plan as an example of her leadership on crime. Her chief of staff, Anne Campbell Washington, hired a week after the Nov. 14 dismantling of Occupy Oakland's main camp, said the plan is the mayor's top priority. Last week, Quan's supporters cited the plan as an example of the mayor's good work in the city.
Oakland has the state's highest violent crime rate, but dealing with it in traditional ways is more complicated because the city's finances have withered and the number of police officers has dwindled during the recession. Quan has looked for solutions to the crime problem that wouldn't cost the city more money. She asked outside agencies to work more closely with the Police Department. She counted on a federal grant to hire additional police officers.
Under her plan, new city services would not be created; instead, existing services would be prioritized differently: Potholes and graffiti, for example, are supposed to be fixed first in the 100-block area.

Data-driven approach -
Her plan favors using a data-driven approach for police enforcement, an idea that was pushed by former Police Chief Anthony Batts, who announced his resignation and was replaced days before Quan introduced her plan. But when Batts presented a plan to the City Council that he said would deploy officers based on crime data, council members representing North Oakland and the hills questioned whether their areas would be neglected.
Quan, who declined comment for this article, has thus far avoided the question. Her spokeswoman, Sue Piper, said the plan does not mean that the rest of the city would get short shrift in services or police. But the idea that more resources will be spent in the 100 blocks, which according to the plan are in East Oakland and West Oakland, without affecting the rest of the city has some scratching their heads.
"I would call it a sort-of crime plan," said Franklin Zimring, a UC Berkeley law professor and renowned criminologist, who said the plan does not make the tough decisions to prioritize what will be lost. "Everything that's done in the plan is not done to the prejudice of anything else."
Zimring thinks 100 blocks is too many for the short-staffed Police Department to focus on and criticized the plan for not stating, among other things, what services police will de-emphasize so that they can focus on the special zone.
On Monday, Quan announced the beginning of the city's first police academy since the layoffs of 102 officers and cadets in July 2010. A $10 million federal grant allowed Oakland to hire 25 new officers, and Quan stated: "Today marks another step toward reducing crime in our city. The officers will be assigned to the 100 blocks where 90 percent of the city's violent crime occurs."

Coordinating efforts -
But Quan did not address the fact that Oakland's police force loses four or five officers a month - or that while the 100-block area would be getting officers, other areas could see fewer officers.
Parts of Quan's plan rely on the services of other agencies. For example, the plan counts on the Oakland Housing Authority to work more closely with the Police Department to patrol areas near housing projects. The plan also counts on the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, which patrols Oakland's major thoroughfares, to coordinate better with Oakland police.
Before the 100-block plan, "we've never consistently coordinated our efforts with them," said Reygan Harmon, Quan's senior policy adviser on public safety.

Pre-existing efforts -
Some collaborations cited by Quan as part of her plan were already in existence.
 The Alameda County district attorney's office, for example, has an attorney working in the Police Department to focus on those who commit the most serious violent crimes in the city. The prosecutor, Norbert Chu, works closely with police officers and investigators to strengthen their cases. In addition, Chu picks out cases that two other prosecutors handle.
The crimes they're prosecuted for may not be from Quan's 100 blocks.
The first case that has come out of the process, which began in September, involves a July home invasion in the hills, where a woman in her 80s was pistol-whipped. District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said it is important to look at the crime committed because criminals aren't bound by geographic limits, like 100 blocks. Even so, such a strategy can help Quan's targeted areas.
"These are (often) individuals who've been active in ... the 100-block neighborhoods," O'Malley said.
Probation officers are also going to be deployed in Oakland's toughest neighborhoods, ones that will generally mirror the zones of the 100 blocks. One probation officer will probably work at McClymonds High School in West Oakland. Those officers will work in tandem with police, such as on home contacts. State realignment, which is putting more convicts under local control, is driving that change, said Alameda County probation chief David Muhammad.
But Oakland's need also plays a role in that change. Oakland has 24 percent of the county's population but 51 percent of those on probation, Muhammad said. He added that Quan's interest has made him speed up his plan, from a six-month implementation to three.

Probation officers' help -
As part of the closer coordination with Oakland, Muhammad said his department will systematically let police know when high-risk convicts are returning to communities - something that had not been done in the past.
"We're doing a lot of good talking together right now, and I'm confident we'll do a lot of good working together, too," he said. But "the proof will be in the implementation."
Harmon, Quan's public safety adviser, said there was only one way to measure the plan's success.
"The number of homicides and shootings will serve as the ultimate metric for which everyone will be held accountable," she said.

100-block strategy for Oakland crime -
To view the mayor's plan, go to [].

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