Last Friday, alleged members of an Oakland gang got a very unpleasant wake-up call. In a series of early-morning raids, 200 local, state and federal police arrested at least 18 suspected members and associates of the Case Boys.
The well-coordinated strike to serve 24 search and arrest warrants targeted various sites in Oakland, Antioch, Brentwood and Pacifica.
Oakland police officials had said publicly in January that they were planning a major operation against two groups they blamed for much of the shooting and killing in Oakland -- the Case Boys and their rivals, Money Team. Members of those groups had been summoned to a Ceasefire meeting -- known as a "call-in" -- in October with law enforcement and community members. They were told to deliver a message to their associates. Stop shooting or else face an intense crackdown from local, state and federal law enforcement.
They pretty much blew off the warning.
The shooting subsided for a couple of weeks. But then, the insanity erupted again. One Friday in January, there were four street killings within six hours that police attributed to a war between the two East Oakland groups -- one of which had merged with another group in West Oakland.
Authorities have been turning up the heat on both groups for several months. But Friday was the biggest law enforcement action so far under Ceasefire, the crime-fighting strategy that Oakland officially launched in October.
Multiple agencies worked with OPD. The California Highway Patrol, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, the Alameda County Probation Department, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Marshals Service, the Oakland Housing Authority, as well as a number of other Bay Area police and sheriff's departments.
Police delivered a letter from Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan to each raid location. It said, in part, "We are all focused on individuals and groups who shoot and kill in the streets of Oakland; this is how we will be working from now on," the letter said. "You may have friends, associates, and family members who need to know that engaging in gun violence will bring this kind of special attention. If you care about them, you will share this message."
So will the targeted groups heed the warning now?
We will find out soon. If Ceasefire is effective, there will be a reduction in shootings. It can take a few cycles of call-ins to produce results, but we're talking about months, not years. Oakland has had one call-in meeting so far involving 20 alleged gang suspects.
It's not enough to just arrest people. Prosecutors have to make the cases. At least 18 people were booked on charges including suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, assault on a police officer and robbery. Authorities have not released their identities. The Alameda County district attorney is reviewing the cases and will make charging decisions Tuesday.
The hope is that the Ceasefire arrests will send a strong message to the targeted groups and help deter future shootings.
Ceasefire works on a carrot-and-stick principle. There is the warning and promise of punishment for committing future violence. But there is also an offer of help in the form of employment, drug rehabilitation, housing and other services for those who want to try to make a new start.
The strategy has led to dramatic crime reductions in cities where it was done right.
However, it is not in and of itself a long-term sustainable crime-fighting strategy. In a number of cities where Ceasefire has had success, street shootings are once again on the rise. Stockton, for instance, which tried Ceasefire in the 1990s, is embarking on its second round.
The program requires a major commitment on the part of numerous local, state and federal partners, which is impossible to sustain over the long haul.
Will Oakland gangs pay Ceasefire any mind? Only time will tell, but you can bet the raids got their attention.
Tammerlin Drummond is columnist for the Bay Area News Group. Her column runs Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at tdrummond@bayareanewsgroup or follow her at Twitter.com/Tammerlin.