OAKLAND (BCN) – Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong paused 87 seconds during a media briefing Thursday afternoon in honor of the 87 lives lost to violence in his city this year.
Armstrong followed the silence, which he called deafening, with more sobering statistics of violence that has continued unabated since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
There have been more than 400 shootings in the city this year, nearly 50 percent higher than last year, and more than 700 armed robberies, also up 50 percent from last year.
People are using stolen vehicles and carjacked vehicles to commit robberies, he said. Groups of two and three are accosting unsuspecting community members and robbing them. Several robberies have led to shootings, he said.
To help stem the violence, Armstrong has moved more officers onto the streets, even as the department faces its lowest staffing levels in years.
"It's been a particularly bad last seven days," with five people slain, Armstrong said.
A man was shot inside a barbershop and another person was shot in downtown Oakland, two unlikely places for shootings.
"Shootings are a real indication of the increase in violence in our community," Armstrong said. "To see shootings up 50 percent is really concerning."
Armstrong said resources for police are lacking and the department now has fewer than 700 officers on the force, but he touted their work.
Nearly 200 robbery suspects have been arrested this year. Nineteen were arrested in August.
Thirty-one homicide suspects have been charged this year by Alameda County prosecutors, including seven in August, Armstrong said.
The homicides, he said, have been related to group and gang violence, human trafficking, robberies, carjackings and other serious crimes.
"It has presented tremendous challenges for us," he said.
According to Armstrong, the department continues to be steadfast in using Ceasefire, a gun violence reduction strategy that has driven shootings and homicides down in the past.
Armstrong called on the community for help. Specifically, he asked that family or friends step in to help keep their loved ones from resorting to violence.
"You don't have to wait to a funeral to give someone flowers," he said.
Other sobering statistics are the 329 carjackings this year, up 100 percent from last year, and the more than 800 guns recovered from the streets of Oakland in 2021.
Armstrong said the guns are high-caliber weapons.
For those determined to commit violence, the chief said there must be consequences.
That was echoed by the Rev. Billy Dixon, a lifelong Oakland resident who talks to young people who may become involved in violence.
But Dixon said to those young people, "If you see me, stop me, talk to me. Let's have a conversation. Let's see what we can do. Let's see if we can get you out of that part of having to participate in violence, having to defend yourself or even picking up a weapon at all."
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