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New Oakland Police Initiative Takes on Rising Violence in City

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Oakland Police kicked off an initiative to stem the rising violence in the city Friday afternoon that focuses on community policing, police officials said. 

OPD Cares kicked off at 3 p.m. at 8500 International Blvd. Police encouraged members of the community to join in. Part of the initiative involved officers on foot and bicycle patrol, in patrol cars and on motorcycles to provide safety. The department uses its mobile command center as a resource center, serving neighborhoods, with officers handing out masks. 

The program begins as gun violence trends upward across all three police areas covering East Oakland as well as in Area 4. Homicides are currently on pace to double last year's total.

"We have seen a spike in violence," said Oakland Police Chief Chief Susan Manheimer. "And traditionally it does spike when everyone is outside and tempers are short. Right now it's probably 95 degrees."

Council member Noel Gallo blames the surge of violence on a mix of desperation and organized crime. He says the shootings and renewed gang activity recalls some of Oakland's darkest days.

"I think right now, considering the challenge economically we're having, we're going back to where we used to be," Gallo says ov the violence.

The uptick in violence comes as the City Council voted to establish a task force devoted to reimagining policing in the city and to reducing the police budget by 50 percent, with the money going to alternatives for public safety. 

The effort appears to have broad community support. Police are concerned that their resources are already stretched thin. 

"Working together, our community cut gun violence in Oakland by 50 percent in just five years," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement. "We must continue our vigilance to reduce trauma and anguish caused by acts of violence."

Police said any effort to reduce violence requires the help of the community. On Friday. police started deploying more resources to the parts of the city with the most violence.  Schaaf says the "Oakland Cares" outreach is a central part of that effort. Community leaders in East Oakland also want to see more officers.

"People talk about defunding the police," said Councilmember Larry Reid. "That is utterly insane. You don't hear the residents of East Oakland saying 'defund the police.'"

Work also continues through the Police Department's Ceasefire program, which has reduced crime, according to police, by identifying gangs and groups behind the illegal behavior. 

"We want people who might be perpetrators or who might be victims of homicide to put down their guns," said Damita Davis-Howard of Oakland Ceasefire.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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