Oakland needs a comprehensive crime-reduction plan that includes a gun-violence-reduction strategy. The sound of gunshots and their devastating aftermath is becoming far too common in our great city.

A 1-year-old baby shot to death along with his father while lying in bed; an 8-year-old girl shot to death answering the door at a friend's house; an off-duty paramedic shot returning home after a visit with his father -- this senseless gun violence has a stranglehold on our community.

Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent stated, "Ceasefire is my number one crime strategy to reduce violent crime in our city." Operation Ceasefire identifies the most violent criminal offenders and provides options and services to them if they stop the violence. But Ceasefire alone will not and cannot address the availability of illegal guns, the primary weapon used in most violent crimes perpetrated in Oakland.

Gun violence will decrease when OPD moves beyond responding to 911 calls and ShotSpotter notifications. According to the International Association of Chief's of Police, while a swift response to incidents of gun violence is critical, it is not enough to be reactive. Given the potential of intelligence-led and data-driven policing and the move toward predictive policing, agencies must perform a strategic review of their current operations and develop a multifaceted plan to address their gun violence problems.


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The lack of a gun-violence-reduction strategy maintains the status quo. Special Agent Mark Kraft, Project Safe Neighborhoods program manager, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, said, "It is important for every community to determine the origin of its crime guns. If law enforcement does not uncover the source of a crime gun, the community they serve is destined to repeat the cycle of violence, as more guns from the same source will repeatedly be used to victimize the public."

During the last two years, I've suggested three programs to the city administrator and/or police chief to help OPD identify the sources of crime guns. All have been successful in other jurisdictions. Oakland could benefit by adopting any, or all, as part of a gun-violence-reduction strategy:

  • Debrief all gun offenders: Suspects arrested with firearms during the commission of a crime who are offered a plea agreement would have to thoroughly debrief regarding the firearm prior to entering the plea agreement.

  • Establish a firearms-offender registry: Similar to a sex-offender registry, such registries are computerized listings of persons previously convicted of a felony firearms violation or a misdemeanor crime that involved a violent or threatening act with a firearm.

  • Consent to search: Parents of high-risk youth would give the police permission to search their homes for guns that their children might have. The guns found would be confiscated, with no follow-up prosecution.

    Earlier this year I introduced legislation adopted by the council, urging the city administrator to request that the chief of police send letters to prospective gun purchasers informing them of their responsibilities; and that noncompliance would result in prosecution. Oakland mistakenly assumes that the absence of gun stores in Oakland means guns aren't coming into our city.

    Currently, OPD has no idea how many legal and/or illegal guns are coming into our city. Although OPD could request information from the California Department of Justice on the legal guns coming into the city; they do not. Despite the low cost and potential benefits, neither the city administrator nor chief of police has made any effort to implement the program.

    There are too many illegal guns on the streets of Oakland; and OPD has too little intelligence. Guns drive Oakland's violent crimes. The continued failure of OPD to adopt a comprehensive crime-reduction plan that includes a gun-violence-reduction strategy puts us all in peril.

    Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks represents District 6.