Oakland violence not letting up as city records 100th homicide

Oakland's relentless pace of violence continues to hold a tight grip over the city, which has logged far more killings in 2021 than this time last year.

Since last week, 10 people have been killed in Oakland, including a double homicide that was witnessed by two young children, city officials said. Then on Monday morning, a man was shot and killed near the Coliseum BART station.

Oakland has already seen 100 homicides compared to 70 at this point in 2020, according to the latest crime statistics. In all of 2020, there were 102 homicides in Oakland. 

Many city leaders fear it will only get worse.

At the start of a press conference Monday to address the rising toll of violence, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong called for 100 seconds of silence, for every life taken so far in the city's wave of violence.

Armstrong said he hopes the somber pause triggers an awakening to what's at stake amid the escalating gun violence.

"So much violence, so many guns, so many senseless lives lost. If this is not a calling to everyone in this community that there is a crisis, I don't know what is," Armstrong said. "The fact of the matter is that we have not spoken loud enough about the violence we've experienced."

The police chief reiterated what he has long said, violent crime is not a problem that can be solved by his department alone.

"We need the community's help." he said. "This is an effort that we all have to take on. If we know individuals who are involved in violence. If we know individuals who are carrying firearms. If we know individuals who feel like their lives are at risk, we need your help.

Police department heads also pointed to some of the city's residents who resort to picking up a gun to settle feuds, further escalating matters. 

Oakland is experiencing highest level of violence in nearly ten years. And the timing couldn't be worse as the police department sees more officers turning in their badges.

"Right now we have 695 officers. This is the smallest the department has been in 10 years," Armstrong said. "We have lost over 46 officers in this department in the last four months. That is a difficult gap to feel."

While police tackle homicides, residents who live near Ritchie Street and Ney Avenue in East Oakland say they are fed up with repeated gunfire.

The latest shooting happened early Wednesday and was captured on surveillance video, damaging windows of at least one home.

"I'm very upset, I'm very emotional, as is everyone in the community, but I'm also very angry," said Alex Minas, who sits on the board of the Eastmont Hills Neighborhood Association.

Another resident, Jessica Espinoza said, "Knock on wood. Nobody's been directly hit yet. We have had a stray bullet come in through my kids' bedroom, all the way through into the bathroom while they were in the bathtub."

City Councilmember Loren Taylor, who district includes the Eastmont Hills area, said the city has added ShotSpotter gunfire-detection devices and boosted patrols.

But "it is like whack-a-mole," Taylor said. "We deal with one place, suppress things here and it pops up somewhere else."

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