The legacy of Oakland, Ca., Mayor Jerry Brown, who is running for California Attorney General, may be dominated by how well he dealt with the city’s most festering and frustrating problem — homicide, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Despite of innovative attempts to cut killings, Brown’s final year as mayor has already seen more slayings than in any year since he took office in 1999. His opponent, Republican state Sen. Chuck Poochigian of Fresno, says Brown would be a disaster as the state’s top cop. Brown is a former governor whose father served as attorney general before being elected governor.
Brown concedes that crime was perhaps his most difficult challenge as mayor. “I’ve realized how complex and fast-moving a problem crime really is,” he said. “You have to respond instantly and forcefully to violence.” He added: “The underlying problems are complex, often going back generations.” As mayor, he has started more than 16 anti-crime initiatives, including a variety of crackdowns on repeat felons, parolees, loiterers, drug dealers, and customers who seek prostitutes. He has imposed curfews on probationers and placed monitoring devices on high-risk probationers. Despite his efforts, there have been 122 slayings this year, compared with 94 in all of 2005. Brown, 68, often walks around the city accompanied by his wife’s dog. He says: “As mayor here and as a resident of a high-crime neighborhood, the issue is right in my face. I’ve found bullet shells when I walk my dog. I’ve seen drug deals go down, and assaults.” Brown took office when Oakland had its lowest murder total in two decades. “When the number gets really low, whoever takes over afterward is going to get blamed for all this, but this extends way beyond Oakland or just California,” said criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University.