OAKLAND -- At the heart of Mayor Jean Quan's 100 Block crime-fighting plan is the notion that 90 percent of shootings and homicides in Oakland occur in just 100 blocks and that increased policing and services in those blocks will reduce crime citywide.
But a nonprofit research group challenged that premise Monday, releasing a study that found shootings and homicides are far more dispersed than the city suggests.
Using police data from 2007 through 2011, the Urban Strategies Council found that last year only 20 percent of homicides and major shootings occurred in the city's most violent 100 blocks. During those same five years, 90 percent of Oakland's shootings and homicides did not occur in 100 blocks, but in 1,303 blocks -- nearly 20 percent of the entire city.
Reygan Harmon, the mayor's top public safety aide, gave two potential causes for the huge discrepancy. The city's figures were based only on three years of crime data, she said. Also, the police data used by the nonprofit might undercount homicides because it treats an incident with multiple slayings as a single homicide.
However, Harmon would not vouch for the key statistic that was front and center in city literature promoting the 100 Block Initiative and Quan's advocacy of the plan -- that 90 percent of Oakland's shootings and homicides have been occurring in just 100 blocks.
"What the city stands by is that there are certain areas of the city that are especially
Steve Spiker, a director for the nonprofit, said he couldn't reconcile the conflicting data because the city refused to provide its methodology for coming up with the city's 100 most violent blocks.
"It's awkward for us to say that they're wrong, because we don't know how they got their data," he said.
Quan rolled out the 100 Block Initiative to great fanfare in October.
The plan is geared to help fight crime within the city's budget constraints by working with outside law agencies to police the city's most violent blocks.
The city has touted several major busts with the help of outside law enforcement, but as crime has continued to rise, the plan has faced criticism that it is only moving crime to other parts of Oakland and that it is cloaked in secrecy.
Quan has refused to specifically name the 100 blocks out of concern that it would stigmatize them and compromise law enforcement operations.
Opponents of the plan seized on Monday's report as evidence that the plan had more to do with politics than fighting crime and that it was bound to fail because Oakland's violent crime problem is too widespread.
"They are in denial," said Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who supports curfews and additional gang injunctions. "They don't want to recognize that unless we use additional tools we won't be able to solve this."
Spiker said the Urban Strategies Council, which advocates for inner-city interests, began looking into the 100 Block Initiative in April at the behest of residents frustrated by the lack of information from the city.
"This may well be an excellent plan," he said, "but when you refuse to provide information about what you're doing and the data behind that, you ruin the trust between the city and the community."
There was still significant overlap between the city and Urban Strategies as to Oakland's most violent 100 blocks.
The nonprofit excluded two clusters in East Oakland, while including areas surrounding High Street and Fruitvale Avenue.
"The bottom line is that the neighborhoods we are focused on in the 100 blocks are (nearly) the exact same neighborhoods that are on the Urban Strategies map," said the mayor's chief of staff, Anne Campbell Washington. "They are not uncovering any new information with this report."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6345.