Thursday, May 31, 2012

Big Crime Bust in Oakland Is Welcome, But Will It Have a Lasting Effect?

By Robert Gammon
Thu, May 31, 2012 at 10:42 AM

The announcement earlier this week that a coordinated effort involving Oakland police and undercover federal agents had resulted in the arrests of sixty violent criminals in the city was welcome news. Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said that operation Gideon III netted the capture of “worst of the worst” in the city. It was also good to see US Attorney Melinda Haag involved in a positive effort to reduce violent crime in Oakland, rather than unnecessarily harassing law-abiding medical cannabis operators. Hopefully, the big bust will have a real impact on crime in the city.

The year 2012, unfortunately, has been a rough one in Oakland in terms of violent crime. Through May 27, violent crime was up 20 percent in the city, and homicides were up by 15 percent compared to the same period last year, according to OPD stats. In some categories, violent crime has skyrocketed — rapes are up 29 percent over last year; robberies by 31 percent; burglaries by 35 percent; and arson by 52 percent.

Howard Jordan
  • Howard Jordan
The Trib reported that Jordan said violent crime is already going down since the big bust, and that federal agents said the operation resulted in the arrests of criminals involved in Oakland’s notorious drug gangs, which have been responsible over the years for a significant amount of crime in the city. But the question is — will the criminal activity by these gangs be affected over the long term, or will the people arrested merely be replaced by other gang members? Obviously, only time will tell.

Still, nabbing violent criminals is positive step. As the Express has reported, OPD has had a miserable record over the years in terms of solving crimes and capturing lawbreakers. Hopefully, operation Gideon III will help the department refocus its efforts on crime-solving rather than patrolling the streets and harassing young people of color.

Also, OPD and city leaders deserve credit for keeping operation Gideon III under wraps until the undercover operation was completed. It would have been very easy for Mayor Jean Quan, who has taken a beating in the press for her 100 Block crime plan, to have revealed the coordinated federal effort earlier this year as evidence that her administration was working hard to address violent crime in Oakland. But she didn’t. She waited and endured the criticism, allowing the undercover operation to reach its conclusion without the public knowing about it.

Finally, as the city’s economic fortunes brighten and tax revenues increase, Quan, City Administrator Deanna Santana, and the city council should revisit the issue of increasing the size of the police department. OPD simply does not have enough cops to deal with all the violent crime in the city, and city leaders need to find creative ways to address that issue.

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