Little more than two months into the year, 23 people in Oakland, Ca., have lost their lives to violence, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. That is almost three times as many as Oakland recorded by this time last year, an alarming pace that has unsettled residents and police alike. City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente declared the city’s homicide rate a “crisis.” and Mayor Jerry Brown and Police Chief Wayne Tucker launched a police unit that will target crime hotspots throughout the city.
Six homicide victims were 18 or younger, which is especially troubling to Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, who memorializes every youth lost to violence and says the best solution to the problem is prevention and asking hard questions of parents — why are their kids out late at night? Where are they getting guns? The Police Department is stretched thin. The department has 650 officers, and there are about 38 cops on the street at any given time to protect a city of about 400,000 people. Residents realize there’s a shortage of officers and see the need for crime prevention programs. That’s why they passed Measure Y, a tax measure to finance more of both, in 2004. The city has had trouble finding enough applicants to bring the force up to the 803 officers promised.