A violent crime wave is sweeping the most urban parts of the Bay Area, producing 150 killings in Oakland, San Francisco and Richmond, and inspiring controversial initiatives to help stem the murderous tide, reports the San Jose Mercury News. In Oakland, where recent victims have included innocent grandmothers and teenagers, homicides are nearly on pace to shatter a 13-year record. Oakland has logged 83 homicides in 2006, nearly twice the count at this same time last year. Richmond and San Francisco homicides are up slightly, but the crimes are more brazen.
“There is a new viciousness in street culture,” said Andrés Soto, Alameda County health department’s violence prevention coordinator. “Violence as a first strike response is part of the national culture now.” Political leaders in the past two weeks have been holding summit meetings to respond to what one Oakland deputy chief labels “senselessness on the street.” Those who attended one summit said a prison-culture has been exported to the streets, where the attitude is, “anything you can’t protect is mine.” Gunfire regularly breaks out over stolen items, dice games and drugs. Youth “are running around with guns tucked in their waist bands,” said Lt. Ersie Joyner, head of Oakland’s homicide division. “Unfortunately, they feel there is nothing to live for.”