Killings soar in Oakland but how many cases are being solved?

While gun violence and homicides surge in Oakland, police in the city are solving a smaller percentage of cases, prompting concerns that the bloodshed will only get worse.

Solving homicides can have an immediate effect on community violence, experts say. By taking killers off the street, solving cases reduces future crimes and helps to stem cycles of violence when people take justice into their own hands. 

As of Friday, there were 119 killings in Oakland. Just 29 of those cases were solved, with an additional 11 cases cleared from previous years.

The total amounts to a 33% clearance rate – far lower than many other jurisdictions around California. In fact, San Francisco has solved 87% of its 47 killings so far this year, not including cases from years past.. And according to statistics compiled by the state Department of Justice, the statewide clearance rate over the last decade was 62%.

Cases are cleared when there is an arrest or a perpetrator is identified, but not necessarily prosecuted. 

"Every department would love to have 100% clearance rate," Oakland Police Chief Leronne Armstrong said during a press conference Friday. "I really think it’s a joint effort. Police will do everything we can with every resource we have, but at the end of the day, it really is community that has to say that this type of violence is intolerable."

The violence shows no signs of slowing down. Three people shot in a ten hour span on Wednesday and Thursday. And in another case Thursday, police reported 198 shots fired on the 1200 block of 89th Avenue in East Oakland.

"Effective investigations that can quickly identify and bring to justice individuals that are involved in these events can reduce the potential for future retaliatory violence," said Eric Piza, a professor at John Jay College in Manhattan and the former chief crime analyst for the Newark, New Jersey police department.

He said strong relationships between police and communities is essential for catching perpetrators. 

"We’ve seen firsthand the strain between police and American communities – particularly the communities that suffer from high crime rates," he said. 

Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky