21 March 2006

Oaktown Body Count

Two more murders this weekend in lovely Oakland, California, bringing the year's total so far to 30. That puts San Francisco's unlovely stepsister on course to tie or maybe even break the all-time homicide record set back in the 90s. In fact, adjusted for population, Oaklanders are now shooting, stabbing and otherwise dispatching each other at rate even higher than that racked up by pre-Giuliani New York City in 1990.

The difference is that since 1990, New York's murder rate has plummeted to where it is now barely a quarter of what it was in the bad old days and New York has become the safest big city in America. Meanwhile, Oakland continues to go from bad to worse, and the prospect of Ron Dellums, a David Dinkins look and think-alike, becoming mayor later this year, makes the prognosis grimmer still.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? In New York, the police started cracking down hard on so-called "minor" offences and lo and behold, major crime dropped precipitously. In Oakland, the police don't even bother investigating most crimes short of rape and murder. "You can file a report online," they'll tell someone who's missing a car or a wallet or the contents of his house.

The cops claim they haven't got enough manpower, which is probably true, and the city claims it doesn't have the money to hire more cops, which might be true as well. But at the same time, the cops were fighting tooth and nail to protect their union-guaranteed right to determine their own assignments. In other words, if the police chief decides a certain dangerous neighbourhood needs to be flooded with cops at certain times, the cops are entirely within their rights to say, "Sorry, man, I don't do nights and weekends."

It's hard to blame them; I wouldn't want to set foot in many Oakland neighbourhoods no matter how heavily you armed me or how well you paid me, but then I never joined the police department and swore to uphold the law. Also, the government and civil administration of Oakland is so intellectually and morally bankrupt that it more closely resembles that of a third world banana republic than a major American city, which wouldn't exactly inspire confidence in those who are out in the streets charged with upholding minimal standards of civilised behaviour.

My take is that much of Oakland has simply given up and accepted that this is the way things are, that there's nothing really to be done. Suggest a New York-style zero tolerance crackdown on routine thuggery and drug dealing and you'll run smack into the race baiters, who will scream that it's an attack on "African-American youth." Even point out the obvious, that the overwhelming majority of Oakland's crime is being committed by "African-American youth," and you'll be branded a racist whose views aren't worthy of being discussed.

So Oakland continues to live in let's-pretend land, and its leaders pull hangdog faces and make sanctimonious statments about how awful it all is while out in the streets people keep dying. And guess who's doing the most dying? African-American youths, of course, and who's killing them? The ones pulling the triggers and wielding the knives, obviously, but they have accomplices in the form of every city official who is too cowardly or too enslaved to a failed ideology to do what obviously needs to be done.


Spoke said...

Years ago,the police grabbed me at a beach in Vancouver (BC). Big fire, underaged people etc.etc. I was one of the oldest (21) they grabbed, so they wanted to charge me with Arson ( we burned a "no fires on beach" sign), destruction of Government property, contributing to the delinquency of minors, blah,blah,blah.
Spoke found himself in the wagon going downtown. After 45 minuets, I had a thought. Since "downtown" was 7 minuets away and we were still driving 45 later, I realized i was going to get my ass kicked old school style. We stopped and when they opened the doors, I refused to get out. One cop stepped in and dragged me out...I braced myself. NOTHING.
They had me at the Municipal line so to speak, and told me to get my ass back to North Vancouver where I was from. I walked away.(8 miles to home)
Heres my thought...IF they did a good old fashioned shit-kicking, I bet I would have trod softly while in Vancouver in the future. I think THAT is what's missing. Gentle arrests, bastard lawyers and a Justice system that "Upholds the Law" but fails serving Justice.
Guys sell dope to kids, who die, and exploit women, who wish they'd die and they sonter through revolving door systems. I don't know the answer. Jails are full...and don't work!
We live on a broken fallen planet...part of the reason I'm diggin' Jesus. He gives me hope when I want to slay everyone I can see.

jenna alive said...

By "let's pretend land," do you mean the Bay Area? Because, man, Larry, everyone knows that's where Oakland is. Duh.

drydock said...

Hey Larry-- I linked your article with Stop de La fuente blog and also it got censored over at http://www.indybay.org/news/2006/03/1809600.php

deckin said...


I've come to this through drydock in Oakland. I liked your piece in general about my fair city, but I really think you do it injustice. No is more pissed off than us decent citizens, but there really are changes afoot--and I'm no paid booster: I'm a teacher.

Look at the Census Bureau's estimates for 2004 (ACS is how their referred to) and tell me things aren't looking up. Percentage of residents with college and graduate degrees up; percentage of homeowners, way up. I know it looks bleak to many now, but things will change soon: demographics will out! We have a bleak choice for mayor (I couldn't agree with you more about Dellums and the Trotskyite Nadel is no better), but too many good people have too much invested for this to fail. Believe me, Oakland is no Cleveland and I don't know where you've been in Chicago lately, but I'll take Fruitvale over the South Side any day.

Dr. Frank said...

Deckin, if you really live in Oakland, you're high. Crime in Oakland is rampant, and laws against assault, theft and vandalism are rarely enforced. Larry's right: Oakland has given up. It is *way* more dangerous to walk around here than it was two years ago, and I don't see much evidence that that trend will change direction. It's getting worse. I haven't seen a cop in my neighborhood in six months.

Try calling the Oakland police the next time you're mugged. Last week a gang of kids smashed fifty car windows on Telegraph on a single night. You call the cops, they tell you not to file a report. (You can, as Larry says, file it on-line: that makes you feel great, but it doesn't stop the muggings.) It is a "kinder, gentler" Detroit. They publicize the murders but they can't prevent them. I wish I could afford to move.

deckin said...

Dr. Frank,

I really do live in Oakland, in fact I'm a native of the East Bay. I didn't say crime wasn't up; that's sadly obvious. My car window was smashed too. But I can tell you, as someone who's been in the area for 40 years, that although it may be worse for you than two years ago, last year had one of the lowest overal number of crimes in recorded history. I'm not making that up; it's public record. More importantly, it doesn't compare with 20 years ago, not even close. For that, I have personal experience and the statistics to back that up. What's happened is that it got a lot better, and now recently it's gotten worse. That legitimately pisses me and everyone else off. Our idiotic politicians thought they had a problem licked and then took a holiday; inexcusable. But forests are different from trees.

We (those who are from here or love here) obviously want it to continue to get better. All I was saying is that if you look at the demographics (please go to see the ACS census estimates), the underlying trends in Oakland have never been this positive. Compare the percentage of Oaklanders with graduate degrees and any of those other mentioned cities (including NY). The claim that things have gotten worse recently and things are better even with that in account than they were 20 years ago are not inconsistent.

Patrick said...


I'm not from the Bay Area and haven't even been alive forty years, but if (as Dr. Frank has said) the police are encouraging victims to not file police reports, wouldn't that account for last year's public record having "one of the lowest overal number of crimes in recorded history" ?

deckin said...


For that to be the case, you'd have to assume that they encouraged them not to file reports for the last few years, and it worked; and now, when the police have even more incentive to pressure people to do that (because of the publicity), it's not working. So, that one doesn't pass the smell test.

My basic beef is this: yea, Oakland has serious serious problems in lots of places. And even more so, we haven't been served well by our politicians. But I honestly can't think of a place that consistently gets shit on on a more regular basis, no matter what the facts are. No other city is literally defined by its worst neighborhoods like Oakland is. Chicago has a higher crime index, but somehow escapes; as do many other cities.

People vote with their feet; how bad could a city be where you can't even find a house listed under 500K?

Larry Livermore said...

It's obvious that you love your town, and that's both admirable and a hopeful sign, provided of course that there are many other Oaklanders who feel the same way.

But the argument that crime is falling because the number of crimes reported is falling sounds suspect to me; here in Britain the government is constantly making that same case and yet the general consensus is that street crime has never been worse, at least not in modern history. While the police here don't actively discourage you from reporting crimes, there is a well-founded belief that little will be done about any but the most serious crimes, so people simply don't bother. I would imagine the same to be true in Oakland; of the many Oaklanders I've known who've been violently attacked and robbed (I dislike the term "mugged" because it sounds a little too playful, and trivialises what is typically a terrifying and awful experience), only a handful have actually reported it. I ask why and they mostly shrug and say something to the effect of, "That's just the way Oakland is."

As for the property-value argument, the reason Oaklanders don't "vote with their feet" is that even at $500k-plus, average home prices are cheaper in Oakland than almost anywhere else in the inner Bay Area. That and its proximity to UC Berkeley will also explain the presence of so many college grads like, for example, Dr Frank, who wishes he "could afford to move away."

P.S. I don't hate Oakland, and devoutly hope it could one day become the relatively tranquil, reasonably priced town it was when I first lived there in 1968. But it has been beset with mediocre, corrupt and times outright terrible government for many years; its current problems, while more obvious, have been developing for decades. I agree with you about Nancy Nadel; she's an excellent illustration of one pernicious Oakland tendency that combines doctrinaire leftism with racial pandering. And as usual, the races being pandered to end up being hurt the most.

deckin said...


Thanks for the response. About the large issue, we couldn't be in more agreement. Perhaps if you could convince Dr. Larry and others like him that we have to avoid Dellums and Nadel like the plague, then we've all got a fighting chance. I really think this is a pivotal election for Oakland. One thing that gives me optimism, as a long time resident of the East Bay: people have never been so pissed off before. Maybe it's the outlet of the blogs, I think a lot has to do with gentrification, but you never saw this anger in 91 or 92 when things were really really bad. Thanks for the time and space.

drydock said...

The Oakland city council is made up mainstream democrats not leftists. Nadel is probably the only true leftist (and maybe Jean Quan) who is on the council. So if you want to blame Oakland political leadership blame the ones who are running things. As for her racail pandering can you give an example.