There are some 30 invitations going out to an event that the recipients most definitely do not want to attend. Those on probation or parole won't have a choice. The others on the list -- which consists of all men -- will be approached by church and other community leaders and strong-armed into coming for their own good.
How many will actually show up depends upon how many authorities can locate.
All of the men have been identified by law enforcement as members of the 14 most dangerous groups and gangs that authorities say are responsible for many of the shootings and homicides that have ravaged East Oakland.
They are being "called in" to a community come-to-Jesus meeting during the third week of October. Call-in organizers have asked that we not publish the date or place. The last thing they want are grandstanding politicians running for election showing up with a media circus that spooks the offenders.
The men will be confronted by local and federal law enforcement, church and other community leaders. People who have lost their loved ones to violence will talk about their own personal tragedies. A trauma surgeon from Highland Hospital will talk about treating gunshot victims. The message is simple. Tell your crew to stop the shooting that is destroying our community. We are here to help connect you with services if you are willing to try to make a fresh start. But if after you leave this room, your group keeps shooting,
The call-in is the official launch of Operation Ceasefire. The national violence-reduction strategy that noted criminologist David Kennedy helped pioneer specifically targets street shootings in urban neighborhoods and has had dramatic results in a number of cities, though many slacked off, and street homicides are once again out of control.
Oakland tried Ceasefire once before. It was a bust.
There was no meaningful law enforcement follow up. Offenders realized they could go on shooting and killing people with impunity.
Oakland police Lt. LeRonne Armstrong says things are different this time around.
There is a collaboration with the clergy and the community. Police can also point to recent joint operations with the feds that led to 90 people being charged with federal crimes: an example for offenders of what could happen to them and their crews the next time they commit a homicide.
"The strategy is to call in two or three people to spread the word to the rest of the group," Armstrong says. "When these guys come in contact with someone like us or the FBI and DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), they tend to warn their group and go back and say, 'Hey, I just got called into a meeting, and they're talking about taking us down on federal gun charges.'"
What is not different is that Oakland still has far too few cops to police the city. Ceasefire still requires a lot of big egos -- within and outside of law enforcement to work together in an environment fraught with political infighting. Ceasefire must navigate Oakland's bureaucratic dysfunction.
The city is contracting with the California Partnership for Safe Communities to help implement Ceasefire.
Yet for reasons no one can seem to explain, it is taking forever for city officials to sign off on the initial $96,000 contract.
The city has not yet hired a project manager -- which Kennedy told me a few months ago was a crucial component of having a successful Ceasefire program. Armstrong and Reygan Harmon, senior policy adviser for public safety, have been acting as de-facto co-program managers.
The Ceasefire pilot program is only one small piece of what should be a larger city strategy for addressing violent crime in Oakland. It specifically targets street shootings in East Oakland. It is not a response to shootings, muggings and property crimes in other parts of the city.
Will Ceasefire be effective? Or will it turn into another rump-covering exercise by city officials?
A lot will depend upon whether the public holds elected officials accountable for results.