Last Wednesday when I got to the office, a Tribune colleague told me "an elderly woman" had been shot and killed on Fern Street in Oakland. I have a family member in her 80s who lives on the steep street. It does not have a lot of homes on it, so I was alarmed when I heard the news.
When I dialed her number and she answered the phone, I was relieved.
But another family got devastating news that day. Judy Salamon, who at 66 was hardly "elderly," was fatally wounded when someone shot into her car while she was driving a few blocks from her home just before 1:30 in the afternoon. Salamon's Subaru Outback rolled down the steep hill and crashed into a parked car that, thankfully, was unoccupied. No one had been arrested as of Monday.
Salamon was an avid animal lover who was a beloved fixture in her Maxwell Park neighborhood. She was killed exactly one week after Alaysha Carradine, an 8-year-old girl who was at a sleepover at a friend's when someone fired through the front door of an apartment in the Dimond area. Her funeral is at 11 a.m. Tuesday at McNary-Morgan-Jackson Mortuary in Oakland.
A white senior citizen and a young African-American girl. They are the latest to lose their lives to the insanity of urban gun violence that is ravaging not just Oakland but cities across the U.S. A steady grinding slaughter occurring day in and day out, which, though it is clearly a national epidemic, gets almost no traction in the national media and no attention from national politicians.
On Friday, the Congressional Black Caucus held an urban gun violence summit in Chicago to bring attention to the overlooked issue of urban violence. Chicago leads the country in homicides, with 220 shooting deaths already this year. At least 74 people were shot in President Barack Obama's hometown over the long July Fourth weekend. Twelve people were killed.
Like many anti-crime summits, it was long on talk and short on fresh ideas. We need more jobs. Better schools and after-school programs. We know what the problems are. What we lack is leadership, a comprehensive plan for addressing them and the necessary resources.
When thousands upon thousands of people are being shot dead in the streets of major U.S. cities on a regular basis, urban violence is a major public health epidemic.
Why aren't we as a country willing to acknowledge that and make the investment in resources that would be required to reduce urban gun killings over the short and longer term?
What would a comprehensive violence prevention strategy look like if we were to truly address urban violence as the public health emergency that it is?
The Prevention Institute, a nonprofit based right here in Oakland, has developed a multisector strategic plan for reducing street violence -- and more importantly, preventing it from occurring in the first place -- in collaboration with 13 major U.S. cities.
The Urban Unity Agenda looked at the issue of urban violence across a continuum -- recognizing that no single program or sector can prevent violence. It developed a "road map" that is based on similar methods used to fight other major public health challenges, such as AIDS. Oakland signed on but didn't follow through on the recommendations.
A city cannot make a significant dent in violence without a strong commitment from the top. The mayor and other local officials must insist that the violence stops and provide the necessary resources. That same commitment must continue up the chain to the county, state and federal levels.
It requires multiple jurisdictions and communities working together to tackle complex social and economic problems that drive urban violence. It's not easy, and it's not going to happen overnight.
Nothing is going to change if we continue to wring our hands every time another person is killed but refuse to make the long-term commitment necessary to save lives.