Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 14, 2020

Safety dance

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

Just in case anyone thought that Alameda’s recent bout of gun violence is unique to Alameda, it’s not. According to an opinion piece in the New York Times there’s been an unexplained uptick in gun violence specifically this summer. And despite our armchair crime experts in Alameda knowing exactly why this is, aka the fault of the current City Council for talking about discussing defunding/unbundling police, experts that actually study these issues don’t really have an answer as to why, only theories.

From The NY Times:

Fluctuations in crime rates are notoriously difficult to explain. In fact, criminologists still don’t agree on what caused the major decline in crime in the United States over the past three decades, which makes accounting for this most recent spike especially difficult. Still, a few potential theories have emerged.

The pandemic-induced recession

Murder rates typically increase in the summer, but experts toldThe Times that the coronavirus has compounded the socioeconomic stressors that often give rise to gun violence, including poverty, unemployment, housing instability and hunger.

The national reckoning over police brutality

The killings by police officers of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that sparked protests around the country may also have contributed to a climate of despair and desperation. In Kansas City, the Rev. Darren Faulkner, who runs a program that provides social support to those deemed most at risk of violence, said that such cases had left many of his clients feeling “hopelessly trapped in a system in which they will never thrive.”

This would not be the first time that high-profile killings by officers coincided with a spike in murder rates, which rose nationally in the wake of the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Some observers called this phenomenon the “Ferguson effect,” positing that the protests against police brutality had made officers more afraid or unwilling to do their jobs.

But the Ferguson effect is a much-disputed idea. Some crime experts have turned the theory on its head, claiming that high-profile killings by the police make people, especially people of color, more loath to call the police in the first place. “When trust in police falls, more people decide they don’t want to have anything to do with the police,” Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, told HuffPost. “That means that when disputes arise, they’re more likely to take matters into their own hands.”

More guns in circulation

Americans are buying an extraordinary number of guns. Firearm sales between March and June exceeded predictions by some three million guns, and in June reached the highest levels on record since data collection began in 1998, according to a Brookings study. And where there are more guns, there are more shootings.

And now as we have the conversation around what we now do with the “rise” in crime, more:

[I]n a report for the Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan research organization, Dr. Rosenfeld and Ernesto Lopez argue that there are some evidence-based measures that could help stem the tide. Concentrating law enforcement in “hot spots” of criminal activity, for example, is associated with modest reductions in crime.

But not everyone thinks that more policing is the answer. In The New Yorker, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor notes that the city of Chicago has nearly tripled its per capita police spending over the past 56 years, but Black residents are no safer, and its failures to curb community and police violence through conventional law enforcement have produced a crisis of mental health, particularly among Black residents. A task force report commissioned by the mayor in 2016 concluded that the Chicago Police Department’s own data “gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”

During the pandemic, many cities have maintained or even tried to increase their police budgets while making cuts to public services meant to mitigate poverty and promote social mobility, which in turn fuels calls for more policing. It would be better, Dr. Taylor argues, to reroute funding from the police to address the underlying causes of crime.

The thing is, we should be electing people to the City Council who are willing to have these in-depth conversations and examining all solutions.  Simply attributing blame to those in office without looking at the national context and systemic issues will not solve anything.  Adding more police on the streets doesn’t address the underlying cause of why people are carrying around guns or stealing catalytic converters or assaulting people at ATMs.  Certainly throwing up crime stats without any context isn’t helping the conversation other then serving to stoke fear in folks who already feel as though their safety is in jeopardy.

Hopefully while we have a discussion about who we want to lead the Alameda Police Department in the future we can have these broader conversations about the future of public safety as well. 


  1. No, this will not do. There is an unusual amount of gun violence going on

    Comment by anonymous — October 14, 2020 @ 7:08 am

  2. Nope. Here is the crime map. See Oakland. Crime is also way up in another neighboring city-San Leandro. And it’s hard to take the NYT’s seriously when it claims crime is up “because” Americans are legally buying guns.

    Progressive bail reform is one cause according to the NYPD.

    “The NYPD on Thursday blamed the state’s bail reform overhaul for this year’s crime spike — saying that 482 people arrested in 2020 were cut loose only to re-offend.

    Those perps were responsible for a total 846 crimes — 299 of which are among the seven “major” felonies tracked by the department — including one murder, NYPD stats show.”

    Another cause, according to Alameda County officials is early Covid 19 releases:

    C’mon man! Time for common sense unless you think like BLM that “looting” is a form of “reparations…”

    “I will support the looters ’til the end of the day. If that’s what they need to do in order to eat, then that’s what you’ve got to do to eat,” she said of those who even tried to smash their way into a Ronald McDonald House caring for sick children and their families.”

    Comment by Nowyouknow — October 14, 2020 @ 7:51 am

    • I think you’re agreeing it’s not an Alameda-specific issue, but you differ on what the causes of the national increase in crime are. Fair? Even partial agreement is a beautiful thing to behold.

      Comment by BC — October 14, 2020 @ 9:03 am

  3. “experts that actually study these issues don’t really have an answer as to why, only theories.” “we should be electing people to the City Council who are willing to have these in-depth conversations and examining all solutions.”

    Where exactly did the 42% proposed reduction number come from? Should we assume it did not come through consultation with experts, who we know only have theories to offer?

    Is the idea of unbundling to assign tasks that get in the way of the police addressing violent and other serious crimes to other agencies so the police can be more effective in their job (and to avoid situations they are not as well equipped to handle), or is it something else?

    How should the city of Alameda address underlying causes of crime – in real, non-theoretical, ways, and in ways that it is not already undertaking – and what do you do with policing in the meantime? It cannot be the case that no one planning to commit a crime takes into account how rapidly local law enforcement is able to respond. The ATM assault took place in broad daylight at the South Shore parking lot – (and it was not something I first heard about through the internet sitting in my armchair). True, it’s possible that those who carried it out had not thought at all about how much time they would likely have at South Shore before a police response. Maybe they did no more planning than someone on meth with a getaway car.

    No one is saying these are easy problems. It’s hard not to suspect that some of the “in-depth conversation” happening now is driven as much by political winds as “examining all solutions”. The idea of a police commission three years ago was abandoned after about 20-30 minutes discussion at the city council – maybe because of who was proposing it. No one came back with a new and improved idea for addressing these issues over the past three years until it became a national issue this spring. We know from the City Manager scandal in 2017-2018 that certain councilmembers were demanding direct reports from the city manager of any crime determined (by the police) to be a hate crime in Alameda within 60 minutes. As symbolically violent and awful as such crimes are, thankfully none has resulted (and I stand to be corrected on this if I’c wrong) in physical violence against the victim. The urgency with respect to such crimes is warranted. Hopefully it exists as well with respect to the non-hate crimes involving physical violence.

    Comment by MP — October 14, 2020 @ 8:52 am

    • The 42% was the percentage of calls the then Chief proposed APD would no longer respond to.

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 14, 2020 @ 9:17 am

    • And it literally was not a police commission, it was a crime commission. Please don’t try to revisit history with someone who wrote about it during that time.

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 14, 2020 @ 9:20 am

      • It could have been whatever the Council wanted to make it. Isn’t that true?

        So how did it get from 42% less calls to 42% less budget?

        Comment by MP — October 14, 2020 @ 9:29 am

        • Or was this agenda description so narrowly written in 2017 as to have legally bound the city council to discuss only a committee created for the purpose of promoting what has been mis-described here as a “cop on every corner” policy, and nothing else?

          “The purpose would be to provide vision, guidance and oversight to the delivery of police services in our City. Through its members, the Committee will facilitate communication and develop a mutual understanding of roles and expectations between the community and our City Police. This highly collaborative partnership will optimize police resources in our City by providing thoughtful insight into the safety and security needs of our diverse community and by monitoring police activity in our City.”

          Comment by MP — October 14, 2020 @ 9:46 am

        • This is how the 42% figure really happened and why. Thanks JKW. Oddie and Vella!

          Comment by Nowyouknow — October 14, 2020 @ 9:57 am

        • It wasn’t less budget it was a proposal to identify what those 42% of calls looked like and where the budget could be directed to if APD was no longer going to respond to 42% of calls for service.

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 14, 2020 @ 10:15 am

        • This is the language that was proposed in the July referral

          “6. The Alameda City Council commits to identifying up to 42% of the City Police
          Department budget to reallocate towards programs that support public health, wellness
          and resilience and can respond to emergency calls for which the Police are not necessary
          as identified by Alameda’s Chief of Police. The Council also commits to reviewing the
          budget again based on the recommendations of the community-led steering committee
          and based on the outside audit described below. These cuts will be proportional to the
          42% reduction in services that the Department has historically responded to and identified
          to shift to other departments. The City Council directs the City Manager to begin an
          outside audit of the activities of the Alameda Police Department, to be made publicly
          available, including the time spent on activities overseen by the Department in the last 12
          months, the time and staffing provided for these activities and City policies that may need
          to be changed in order to meet the goals and objectives outlined by the community-led
          steering committee on safety and security for all Alamedans. Additionally, the budget
          reallocation will explore the following areas:

          Comment by MP — October 14, 2020 @ 10:55 am

    • MP – Trish brought up the “police commission” idea – but it was really a crime commission to get tough on crime after a bunch of NextDoor hysteria about a perceived increase in crime. Trish Spencer is blatantly trying to repackage that into an anathema of itself to capitalize on today’s BLM movement. And the reason why it was dismissed so quickly:

      Jim Oddie: “I know [the idea of a police commission] came before us a couple years ago, and I thought it was a bad idea because I thought it was motivated by retaliation by the former mayor for her husband getting pulled over by the police or a crime of driving under the influence.”

      Comment by JRB — October 14, 2020 @ 10:02 am

      • JRB, that’s true, as we have discussed (although it was titled “Police and Crime Citizens Oversight Committee” (not just “crime commission”). That doesn’t mean, as you would probably agree, that the rest of the council was bound to follow Trish Spencer’s concept (or her motivation behind) of a commission. No single councilmember has that power. The words of the agenda item, and whatever people on NextDoor were saying, certainly would not have bound the rest of the Council back in 2017 to consider only what you describe as Trish’s “tough on crime” approach. And if you listen to the actual Council meeting in 2017, that is not all that Trish Spencer was talking about; she was also talking about complaints about police conduct and I recall her specifically mentioning issues between police and people of color, maybe only as afterthoughts, maybe in earnest. But assume “tough on crime” was her main purpose. That didn’t stop her – or anyone else – from speaking to broader concerns.

        I don’t find Jim Oddie’s quote (apparently for the purpose of explaining having gone along with tabling the proposal) very persuasive. He may not have liked Trish’s motivations, but her motivations did not and do not control how the Council deals with it. Maybe in the real world, unexpressed individual motivations of one politician suggest how other politicians should then act, but to the outside observer, it does not seem like a very substantive reason. Frank Matarrese who also voted to table the idea in 2017 has since said that he wished he had voted for it back in 2017.

        Comment by MP — October 14, 2020 @ 10:26 am

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