Oakland officials announced the full return of the city’s Ceasefire Strategy, which aims to reduce gun violence by encouraging potential offenders to put down the guns before they get arrested.

Four call-ins are planned for this year. Potential offenders are called in to ask them to change their lifestyle and accept services and life coaches designed to help them do that.

Twenty-six officers are currently on the Police Department’s Ceasefire unit and that will increase to full staffing at 32 by the end of the summer.

Oakland officials, including Mayor Libby Schaaf and Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, are also increasing the number and quality of notifications to potential offenders, increasing enforcement actions and asking the courts to change the bail policies for offenders.

“We believe that this holistic strategy is going to return Oakland to a place of peace and safety,” Schaaf said at a news conference.

The efforts by the city are supported by Faith in Action, a coalition of community leaders who under a different name years ago demanded that the city adopt the Ceasefire strategy.

Ceasefire was effective for several years before the pandemic, cutting gun violence in half. Since the pandemic began, gun violence has erupted again in Oakland, leading to levels only seen prior to 2012.

Other cities across the country also saw violence increase during the pandemic.

Change or face consequences

The Ceasefire strategy seeks first to get a message to potential offenders that they could be arrested if they don’t change their lifestyle and accept services designed to help them. Police said most of the gun violence is done by groups and gangs.

“We take no pleasure in having to take enforcement action,” Armstrong said at the news conference.

Unfortunately, some have not listened to the Ceasefire message and were arrested, he said.

Police recovered seven guns including assault rifles on March 9, Armstrong said. Several of the guns were ghost guns, he said. Armstrong said officers on Feb. 24 tried to arrest two people suspected in robberies and carjackings.

“We believe that this holistic strategy is going to return Oakland to a place of peace and safety.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf

The pair was arrested after they rammed a stolen vehicle into an emergency response vehicle, causing about $30,000 of damage to that vehicle, the chief said. Both suspects were carrying loaded guns, Armstrong said.

Also, on Feb. 24, officers recovered five guns, some with high-capacity magazines.

Police have conducted 24 Ceasefire operations this year, compared with nine at this time last year and 10 at this point in 2020, the chief said. Officers have recovered over 35 guns so far in 2022 compared with 27 at this point in 2021 and 29 at this time in 2020, Armstrong said.

Making progress

Schaaf said the combined amount of gun violence and homicides is down 21 percent this year compared with last year, which city officials are not satisfied with. Armstrong attributed the decrease to Ceasefire.

“This strategy is so important to the crime reduction in our city,” said the Rev. Michael Wallace of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland.

Wallace is part of the Faith in Action coalition, and he joined Schaaf and Armstrong among others at the news conference.

Wallace said the people of Oakland demanded the city implement the Ceasefire strategy and he called the strategy effective.

As part of the city’s violence reduction efforts, Schaaf and Armstrong are joining with Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley in asking Alameda County courts to reverse most of the bail policies implemented in response to COVID-19 that allowed many to avoid incarceration.

Schaaf said she believes a change in bail policies will reduce retaliation and repeat offenses.