Since October 2012, OCO has been organizing Friday night walks in collaboration with the city of Oakland, other community organizations and faith leaders to stop the gun violence in our community with the Ceasefire strategy.

There were 131 homicides in Oakland in 2012, and the overwhelming majority of the victims were—and continue to be—African-American and Latino men.

OCO brings to the table its knowledge and resources from the Lifelines to Healing Campaign, a national effort of the PICO National Network that aims to address the root causes of violence in cities.

The Lifelines campaign is modeled after “Operation Ceasefire,” the most highly rated violence prevention model in the country. This model—the basis of the “Boston Miracle” of the 1990s, in which youth gun murders in that city went from 75 to zero—has been extensively evaluated and replicated in other cities. The good news is that the model requires neither a vast overhaul of the police department nor a huge influx of new resources. What it does require is a disciplined and targeted set of policing strategies that operate in close partnership with the community.

How the Night Walks Work

Lifelines requires an extensive analysis of local crime data, which, in every instance so far, reveals that only a small number of individuals in any given community actually perpetuate gun violence. According to the city, more than 60% of the homicides in Oakland—carried out by that small group of people—take place east of High Street, which is why our first target is East Oakland. These potential victims and shooters are identified and called in by a team of law enforcement and community partners who send a clear and unified message to the young men that:

  • we love and care about them,
  • we want them to stop being so violent toward one another, and
  • we hope they take advantage of the help and services available.

However, we cannot allow this violence to continue.

Law enforcement officials provide clear information on the follow-through they will give to groups that persist with violence, while help is offered to those who would like to change. When done correctly—with coordinated support and outreach from key community members—the strategy yields results.

This strategy was partially tried in Oakland several years ago and did not get the intended results expected. With a renewed commitment by the mayor, Alameda County officials, the Oakland Police Department and federal law enforcement agencies, we also commit to helping ensure there is full implementation of Lifelines, which requires the support and partnership of the Oakland community.

There are other strategies that when tried in other cities—which often include profiling and detaining large numbers of our community members—not only prove ineffective, but contribute to resentment and tension between the community and the police. The Lifelines approach aims to keep young men out of prison because it is premised on what we already know—the vast majority of us are not violent and residents of all neighborhoods want and deserve to be safe.

For more information about the Lifelines campaign, call us at 510-639-1440.

To participate in the night walks, please contact Rev. Damita Davis-Howard at ddavis-howard@oaklandcommunity.org or 510-639-1440. Visit our events calendar for a weekly schedule.

Other Resources

The City of Oakland often provides updates to the community about the Ceasefire strategy through regular briefings on its development and outcomes. For more information, including questions, requests for presentations and attendance at an upcoming briefing, contact Reygan E. Harmon at rharmon@oaklandnet.com or Lt. Leronne Armstrong at larmstrong@oaklandnet.com. The city also has more resources about Ceasefire on its website.

Oakland Unite is a public safety collaboration of community-based organizations, public agencies and residents using proven and effective means to create reduce crime in Oakland. To learn more about the Youth Services, Crisis Intervention, Reentry Services and Family Violence programs offered by Oakland Unite, please visit www.oaklandunite.org.