I often pass the Wrist Action Barber shop when I'm out walking my dog. It's just a few blocks from my house in East Oakland.
Last Tuesday someone shot Jason Chess, 30, as he walked near 106th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard to the barbershop. The popular barber, who lived in Antioch, stumbled inside the shop and collapsed. He died later at the hospital. The police said they did not have a motive.
My neighborhood lies in police beat 32Y. It comprises a fairly small area in deepest East Oakland.
Seven people were shot to death there between Jan. 1, 2010 and June 14, 2012, according to Oakland Police Department statistics. Another 25 people got shot but survived. That averages out to about one shooting per month that actually got reported to the police.
I consider that an unacceptable level of violence.
Yet my neighborhood is not in the approximate 100 block zone where Mayor Jean Quan has said most of the shootings and homicides are occurring. (At least it does not appear to be from the grainy map the mayor has released.)
When I called the Oakland Police Department to find out for certain, spokeswoman Johnna Watson said OPD does not identify what is or is not within the 100 blocks.
Quan first announced the "100-Block Community Initiative to Reduce Violence" in October. She and her public safety advisers asserted that 90 percent of shootings and homicides in Oakland occurred in 5 percent of the city. As a
The strange thing is, city officials have refused to identify the 100 blocks.
Despite repeated requests from the public, the mayor has only released a low resolution map that showed a general area. Quan initially said that she did not want to stigmatize the people living in those neighborhoods by identifying specific blocks. Now the mayor's advisers say the feds asked them not to because it could jeopardize law enforcement operations.
City officials have also refused to reveal the specific crime data and methodology they used to draw their conclusions.
The secrecy and utter lack of transparency around a major public safety initiative has been astounding. How are Oakland residents supposed to measure results if city officials won't disclose the specific areas being targeted?
Fed up with the obfuscating by city officials, the Urban Strategies Council decided to do its own analysis.
The nonprofit found that between 2007 and 2011, 17 percent of shootings and homicides happened in the 100 most dangerous blocks. In 2011, it was 20 percent.
A far cry from the 90 percent claimed by the mayor.
The report suggests shootings and homicides are not concentrated in an infinitesimal part of the city but are far more widespread than city officials have purported -- which people who live in still violent yet non-100 block areas didn't need a report to tell them.
This calls into question the entire foundation that the mayor's 100-block plan is built on.
In response, the mayor's office issued a news release stating that the nonprofit had arrived at different conclusions because its researchers had used different data. Urban Strategies used two models, one based on shootings and homicides from 2007 to 2011, the other with just 2011 police data. The city however, says it used OPD crime data from 2009 to 2011. The city also says that Urban Strategies didn't have access to ShotSpotter and intelligence from law enforcement.
I put a lot more faith in an analysis that covers a full five-year period as well as the most recent year for which data is available than a 2009 to 2011 snapshot from folks who won't even show what methodology they used to arrive at their conclusions.
It is very disturbing that Quan's office continues to put out misleading information in clumsy efforts at damage control.
"In the most recent reporting period, murders are down citywide by 56 percent," a news release from the mayor's office read.
That "recent reporting period" compared April 2012 and May 2012. What meaningful conclusions can be drawn from a one-month time period?
The bottom line? Chess's killing was the 51st this year, which puts us right back on track to break 100 homicides.
"This makes it look like what some of us have always hoped was not true but suspected," says Bruce Nye, founder of Make Oakland Better Now, a citizens advocacy group. "That the 100 block initiative is more driven by ideology than it is driven by anything that looks like criminology science."
The question is, how long will Oakland residents continue to tolerate the same old same old?