Audit Blames City Officials for Rise in Oakland Crime

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

As we recently reported, Oakland, California bucked the trend seen in most U.S. cities last year, with its homicide rate almost unchanged from a year before and about 40 percent higher than it was just five years ago. From 2013 to 2019 the city saw fewer than 100 homicides each year, but ever since the numbers have been trending in the wrong direction; from 78 murders in 2019 to 126 recorded homicides in 2023. In fact, Oakland had almost twice as many homicides as Oklahoma City despite having about 250,000 fewer residents and dozens more gun control laws in place.


What’s going on, beyond the inability of California’s gun control regime to stem the tide of violence? Well, according to a new audit from the California Partnership for Safe Communities it’s the actions of city officials that’s to blame. Specifically, the audit points the finger at the steady erosion in support for the city’s Ceasefire program, which focused on the city’s most likely violent offenders and offered them a carrot-and-stick approach to staying on the straight and narrow.

The audit, prepared by the California Partnership for Safe Communities at the mayor’s request, determined that the Ceasefire program, which was launched in 2013, began declining in 2016 and became especially diminished in 2019 and 2020 — during the administration of Thao’s predecessor, Mayor Libby Schaaf.

During those years, the report found, “each essential element of the strategy was significantly watered down, resources stripped away, or refocused.”

“As a result, the Ceasefire strategy no longer impacted citywide levels of violence in Oakland,” states the audit, which points the finger at the city’s shift away from dealing directly with individuals at risk of committing crime.

Most critically, according to the findings, the city needs to revive its weekly “shooting reviews,” in which law enforcement officials would discuss local shootings that were likely to result in retaliation, and how the sides could be talked into laying down their arms.

“To make the Shooting Review functional, the (Oakland Police Department’s) executive team should make this meeting and this strategy a priority for the Department again,” the report states. “Specifically, the executive team of the OPD needs to attend and participate in every meeting.”


I wasn’t a huge fan of Oakland offering cash stipends to Ceasefire participants, but that was a pretty small aspect of the program. The foundational premise was offering those most likely to offend and be victimized by street violence the opportunity to chart a new path in life, along with the promise of stiff prison sentences and no plea deals for those who continued to perpetrate these crimes. This small group of core offenders is responsible for an outsized portion of violent crime in any given community, so targeting them can have also have a bigger-than-average impact on violent crime rates.

While the report doesn’t discuss the failings of California’s gun control regime, it does offer some criticism of the city’s Department of Gun Violence Prevention, citing “organizational challenges” that have hindered its responsibility to keep track of those who are the focus of the Ceasefire efforts. As the audit noted, when Ceasefire is successfully implemented we typically see fewer arrests and fewer prison sentences along with a decline in violent crime, but “holding violent perpetrators accountable is necessary both to provide justice to victims and families”, as well as “to be able to stem ongoing cycles of retaliation.”

That’s a pretty common sense statement, but it flies in the face of the tactics adopted by California Democrats from Gavin Newsom on down. They’d rather hold lawful gun owners accountable for the actions of violent criminals, as well as doing everything they can to prevent Californians from becoming legal gun owners in the first place. The findings released in the audit of Oakland’s Ceasefire program offer solid evidence that if you want to really reduce crime you have to focus on the individuals committing those offenses, not the folks just trying to exercise their Second Amendment rights. I suspect that conclusion will be roundly ignored by the anti-gun prohibitionists at the state capitol in Sacramento, even if Oakland’s mayor is vowing to revitalize the city’s Ceasefire program.


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