Bodies have been piling up in poor, mostly black neighborhoods in East and West Oakland for decades.
The killing orgy can be traced back at least to the heroin wars in the early '80s -- which gave way to the toxic crack cocaine explosion that ravaged urban neighborhoods, not just in Oakland but all over the country.
It would be silly to expect Mayor Jean Quan, who has been mayor a year and a half, to solve a public safety crisis with multiple, deeply rooted social and economic causes.
But I do expect the city's top elected official to be serious about making public safety her No. 1 priority. I expect her administration to spearhead a comprehensive strategy for addressing the crisis that is based on real data rather than political expediency. I expect her to be honest with her constituents about what policies she is implementing to try to begin to move the needle back on the escalating violence. So that maybe, in another three decades, Oakland won't be known nationally for its violent crime rather than for its many attributes.
Yet that hasn't been the case.
In October, Quan rolled out her public safety plan, the "100 Block Community Initiative to Reduce Violence." It was two months after Carlos Nava, 3, had been shot and killed while his mother pushed him in his stroller. The pressure was on city officials and the police department to do something about the killing.
Quan told the public that 90 percent of shootings
Quan refused to specify exactly which blocks were being targeted. Yet she has insisted repeatedly that the strategy has reduced violent crime. An odd assertion given that Oakland is on track yet again to break 100 homicides. As of Monday, 55 people had been killed -- two fewer than this time last year.
Many people have questioned the mayor's 100-block claims. Yet she and her aides have testily stuck to their story for months.
Earlier this month, the Urban Strategies Council released a study that found only 17 percent of shootings and homicides occurred in the most dangerous blocks.
That suggested shootings and homicides were not concentrated in an infinitesimal part of the city but were far more widespread. Which raised serious questions about a strategy based on the premise that violence is contained in a relatively small area and that purports to concentrate the city's limited crime-fighting sources into that zone.
After the critical study was released, the mayor's office went into spin control. Quan aides said Urban Strategies Council didn't have access to ShotSpotter or on-the-ground law enforcement intelligence, that the nonprofit organization had used data from different time periods.
Last week however, the mayor's office finally 'fessed up.
Anne Campbell Washington, the mayor's chief of staff, admitted that Quan's claim that 90 percent of shootings and homicides have occurred in 100 blocks was incorrect. She said the plan focuses on 10 neighborhoods that accounted for 58 percent of the city's homicides and 42 percent of shootings in 2010 and 2011.
Washington said she did not know where the 90 percent figure, which city officials have been touting for months, came from.
The erroneous claim was still up on the city website Monday.
The real question is, what exactly is the 100-block plan and how does it differ materially from anything the city and other agencies had already been doing to fight crime?
Police officials have said they aren't doing anything different from before. Federal officials had operations in Oakland before Quan announced her plan. What city services have been delivered to whom, and how does that compare with the previous year?
If the city data were based on funny numbers, why should we believe the rest of the plan is anything more than smoke and mirrors?