Just after midnight on Oct. 14, Oakland had its 100th homicide of 2012, making it the fourth time since 2008 that Oakland has recorded at least 100 homicides in a year.
For those who would argue that another homicide is just a regular aspect of urban life, it's time to wake up and look at the facts. Oakland is not a regular city, with the commensurate level of criminal activity. Oakland is saturated in crime.
In 2011, we had 110 murders, 3,300 robberies, 5,000 burglaries and more than 20,000 property crimes. In April, the FBI rated Oakland as the fourth most dangerous city in the nation, and it has been in the top 10 for more than a decade. According to the report, Oakland has the highest robbery and motor vehicle theft rates in America.
Sadly, these statistics are not new to long-term residents of Oakland. So why aren't we doing more about it? Personally, I am tired of those who make excuses for Oakland's high crime rate. Our expectations for public safety have fallen so far that we regularly brush off serious threats to our safety and well-being. Robbed at gunpoint coming off BART? We're told, "Well, that's Oakland." Home invasion? We're told, "Well, at least no one was hurt."
How are families responding to this hailstorm of crime? The answer: They are leaving, if they can. From 2000 to 2010, Oakland lost a full 15 percent of its child population. That statistic resonates with my own experience. When school started in August, I noticed that several families didn't return. These are wonderful people, people who loved Oakland and wanted to stay in Oakland but who just can't reconcile themselves with the crime.
Simply stated: The current level of public safety in Oakland is not good enough. It's not good enough for my neighborhood in North Oakland and it's not good enough for any neighborhood in Oakland.
So what can we do? How can we take action to make Oakland a safer city? I believe the most important step we need to take to cut crime is to increase the size of our police force. Oakland has 1.3 officers for every 1,000 residents -- the statewide average is 2.5 officers per 1,000. We simply need more cops. Oakland should also implement Ceasefire, an evidence-based approach to reduce crime that moves scarce resources toward the most likely offenders.
We also need a more robust, dynamic economy that creates jobs to move our young people into the economic mainstream, not the illicit economy. This will require Oakland to take a more innovative approach to economic development, particularly now that we have few public dollars available for projects due to the dissolution of redevelopment.
But while crime happens close to home, crime cannot be solved by the city of Oakland alone. As taxpayers, we need to ask our county, state and federal officials what they are doing to fight crime in Oakland.
For example, we should ask Alameda County, which administers safety net programs, what they are doing to reduce our alarming rate of child poverty, which evidence shows is at the root of addressing crime in the long term. What is the state of California doing to rehabilitate offenders to increase their chances of returning home and integrating into the economy instead of committing more crimes? What more can the federal government do to combat the flow of guns into our city or fund more police officers?
It's time to move out of our collective paralysis and take action. First, we must push the city to commit more resources to combating crime. But we must also refuse to let the other levels of government, where our taxes also go, off the hook. Let's make 2012 the last year that Oakland has the sad distinction of 100 homicides.
Amy Lemley is a resident of North Oakland.