David Muhammad, CEO of Solutions, Inc, consulting firm and the former Chief Probation Officer of Alameda County Probation states in a recent article:
“Despite the common opinion that violence in Oakland is spiking and out of control, data for the past year gives the city cause to celebrate for the first time in nearly a decade: Oakland experienced a 30 percent decrease in homicides in 2013 compared to the previous year, with nearly 40 fewer killings. This marks the lowest homicide count in Oakland since 2004.”
That is quite a drop and quite an improvement but Oakland is a physically large city, approximately 78 square miles, and most crime is concentrated in certain areas and not representative of The Town as a whole.
My recent article about the Domain Awareness Center and the controversy surrounding the project is a prime example of how Oakland’s city government is trying to think outside of the box to increase public safety while decreasing the crime rate. While the project is hotly contested by Oaklanders it is grudgingly being accepted by most citizens as an additional step being taken to decrease crime in the area.
Additionally not many people give enough credit to incumbent Mayor Jean Quan’s work to improve the overall economy in Oakland and more specifically in the areas that are plagued by crime and economic imbalance. Mayor Quan’s policies, while not always popular (in particular the focusing of police resources in the 100 Block plan) and her commitment to economically improve all of Oakland seem to be working to decrease crime.
Another reason the crime rate is dropping in Oakland is the gentrification of most of the neighborhoods. Another hotly contested issue here, gentrification, Oaklanders, always vocal and at the forefront of politically charged issues, are falling equally on both sides.
The recent attack on a Google Bus, by alleged Oakland residents in West Oakland, in December of 2013 is a perfect example of the anti-gentrification feeling permeating the quickly gentrifying neighborhoods.
Mark Roberts, a longtime Oakland resident, says, “My father was an architect for HUD and West Oakland was a topic of discussion for us since the 70’s with my dad always saying that it was going to be one of the‘hot spots’ for people to live in the Bay Area. He was here recently and we went through the area and he was amazed at how quickly the neighborhood had gentrified. It was unfortunate that the main reason for the gentrification was the influx of new residents.” Roberts goes on to say, “My father and I would have liked to see more support, from the city, sooner to maybe keep the original homeowners in place but it’s good to see the area coming up.”
As San Francisco’s property market spirals upward Oakland is the destination for the savvier real estate buyers, those wanting the convenience of mass transit, bigger spaces, and affordable prices. “The real estate market here is still very affordable to most,” says Taylor Sublett, a real estate agent specializing in North Oakland property. “I have a client looking to buy a condo in San Francisco and he can’t touch anything for less than $800,000.00. The same money would get him an amazing single family residence in the Oakland Hills or one of the nicest penthouse condos in Jack London Square.”
Gentrification does help decrease the crime rate. As the neighborhoods turn over and entrenched families are moved out a lot of the entrenched problems go away as well.
There are definite casualties of the sweeping gentrification of Oakland neighborhoods. Longtime business owners are now finding themselves priced out of the neighborhoods when their leases are up. Longtime residents are in the process of losing their homes and can no longer afford to live in the neighborhoods where they raised families.
Oakland is improving and quickly. As with any quick growth there are going to be growing pains and not everyone is going to be happy all the time. The decrease in crime that we are celebrating today is a direct result of incumbent political policies, the community coming together, and the on going renaissance that is Oakland today.