Shootings and fear surge in Oakland

Vice Mayor Larry Reid
Oakland Vice Mayor Larry Reid
CBS News

(CBS News) OAKLAND, Calif. - The city of Oakland is looking for new ideas to stop a surge in gun violence. On Tuesday night, it hired William Bratton -- the former Los Angeles police chief -- as a consultant.

Last year there were 117 gun deaths in Oakland -- 14 since the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., six weeks ago.

Some have called Oakland, "a war zone going on."

Hundreds of Oakland residents attended Tuesday night's city council meeting.

Jessica Hollie
Jessica Hollie CBS News

Jessica Hollie, an expectant mother, said: "I tried to talk about this a lot before I came because I didn't want to cry: I am sad and scared to be having a black boy in Oakland."

That fear of gun violence is shared by Vice Mayor Larry Reid.

"When I go out to community meetings I have a bullet proof vest that I wear, but I don't have a gun," Reid said.

Oakland has a long history of crime linked to drugs, gangs, and poverty, but on a single day this month four people were shot dead within six hours.

Vice Mayor Larry Reid
Oakland Vice Mayor Larry Reid CBS News

"It's too many guns on the streets," said Vice Mayor Reid, when asked to diagnose the problem in Oakland. "(They're) in the hands of young people that aren't afraid to take your life or my life."

Reid also blames budget cuts which have reduced the police from 800 officers to 600.

"On any given shift, in a city of 400,000 people, there's only 40 officers on our streets to deal with the issues that this city is faced with," said Reid, adding that criminals know the police usually can't get there in time.

Oakland has only about 15 police officers for every 10,000 residents, less than half what many other large cities have. Last year 131 people were murdered in Oakland.

"We need help and we need help bad," Reid said.

It's help that can't come soon enough in a city with too few police and too many bad guys with guns.

Editor's Note: A report on Oakland, California's City Council meeting Tuesday included an excerpt from Jessica Hollie's testimony, which left the impression she supported the hiring of Bill Bratton and the practice of stop-and-frisk. Ms. Hollie's testimony in full was to oppose both the hiring and the practice and to speak against increasing police powers in Oakland.

  • John Blackstone
    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.