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Oakland's Police Chief Outlines Plan to Make Streets Safer in Coming Year

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- After his department investigated an alarming number of fatal shootings in 2021, Oakland Chief of Police LeRonne Armstrong on Wednesday told KPIX he knows what it will take to make the city's streets safer during the coming year.

"If people don't feel safe, they can't experience the beauty of our city," the chief said at one point.

Armstrong gave KPIX 5 reporter Andria Borba a one-on-one interview to discuss his plans for the department. Armstrong told KPIX he sat down with families of all 134 homicide victims who were killed in the past year. He says a ceasefire strategy must be applied once again to deal with the largely gang-driven violent crime spike.

"We've been successful in Oakland practicing ceasefire to see a decline in homicides. We are going to use that strategy again this year. My hope is that we see violence decrease like we did starting in 2013," Armstrong told KPIX.

In the wide-ranging interview on Wednesday, the chief provided some details about the arrest statistics regarding the past year's violent crimes.

Armstrong said 60 suspects were taken into custody in connection with those 134 homicides. The chief said adding more recruits and beefing up the department's numbers will help improve those clearance rates.

"When we're at full staffing, we're able to fully staff our investigations unit -- meaning we can get a full compliment of officers investigating crime and homicide and our robbery division and all the areas that are impacting our community everyday," said Armstrong. "I think when you send a message to those involved in violence that they are going to be apprehended, that we are going to have relentless follow-up. It is a deterrent because you need to know, you're going to get caught."

Four academy classes have been approved by the Oakland City Council for 2022, but Chief Armstrong says he must do a better job retaining the officers he currently has -- a tall task in the face of non-stop overtime and calls for service.

"We have to do a better job of increasing morale, job satisfaction. We have to make this an attractive job to even those that we seek to recruit," he said.

Chief Armstrong also wants cameras added to freeways, including on and off ramps to slow the trend of deadly freeway shootings. The latest victim was David Nguyen -- an Alameda County Sheriff's Department recruit.

"Anything that we can get to help us solve these crimes, to be able to apprehend those that are responsible for these very violent crimes. Freeways are very challenging because people are moving at such a rapid speed, that sometimes people don't see what just happened — that shots were fired," said Armstrong. "But if we had that technology, it could help us identify the vehicles that are driving on the freeway and if they came from an Oakland community."

Armstrong says Oakland Chinatown is much safer today than it was last year, thanks to an increased presence of officers following a horrifying series of attacks on elderly Asians residents.

Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce President Carl Chan agreed with the chief's assessment.

"Before the stepping up of the patrols by the police department, we had almost a daily incident, 2 or 3 at least was happening. It was unbelievable. When they stepped in -- I believe in August 8th -- when they are stepping up the patrol, the incidents are basically almost down to zero," Chan told KPIX.

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