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Oakland Mayor Schaaf Reassessing Strategy To Curb Violence in East Oakland Amid COVID-19

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- The effects of the coronavirus pandemic on Oakland's crime fighting strategy is compelling city leaders to reassess their crime fighting and prevention efforts.

Mayor Libby Schaaf's visit to the Akoma Outdoor Market on Sunday was her first meeting with the public of this kind since the shelter-in-place. She welcomed East Oakland residents to a community circle to air out their top concerns.

Others shopped at the new outdoor market, on a formerly empty lot on Foothill Boulevard. It was created during the pandemic to help showcase black and brown businesses.

"I've been in Oakland all of my life and I have three children, and they're young adults, and of course anytime they leave the house, I'm concerned," said resident Tricia Penny. "Violence can happen anywhere, it can happen right now."

East Oakland is at the heart of the city's increase in homicides amid the coronavirus pandemic. The recent outbreak of violence claimed its 75th victim during the first weekend of October, matching the total number of homicides in all of 2019.

Just last week, there were two triple shootings within nine blocks in East Oakland.

"I am grieving, grieving that we have had so many more homicides this year. All other types of crime have gone down except homicides", said Schaaf. "This pandemic is upping the stress, the anger, the desperation," she continued.

The mayor said the pandemic has paused critical gun violence reduction work and outreach efforts through a program called Ceasefire. It relied on in-person gatherings indoors.

"We are now going to look for ways to do these safely, in secured outdoor areas and to start bringing what we know is an effective model back, as well as some other enhancements," Schaaf added.

The distressed economy has also worsened the community's problem with homelessness. Access to affordable housing and a pathway to home ownership were also front of mind.

"If you're always in an apartment or Section 8 or any other those, there's nothing wrong with those programs, but at some point in your life you may want to own," said resident Nina Moore. "I just think that Oakland should offer more home ownership opportunities."

The mayor also reminded Oakland residents to keep up safety protocols, like mask wearing and social distancing, so we can continue to keep COVID-19 cases stable in the Bay Area.

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