The Oakland Department of Violence Prevention, tasked with easing violence in the city, has received its largest level of funding since its inception five years ago.

Violence jumped in Oakland following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic following years of easing. Violence this year is down slightly but is still above the half-dozen or more years before the pandemic.

Oakland city councilmembers recently allocated $19.3 million to the Department of Violence Prevention to fund prevention and intervention services. Money in the form of grants will go to nonprofits and public agencies for implementation.

“This $19.3M will directly help individuals, families, communities, and schools to address the challenges of ongoing multi-generational violence, and the root conditions that perpetuate it,” said Guillermo Cespedes, chief of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention in a statement.

“Oaklanders can look forward to deep investments over the next two years to address violence at its roots.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf

Community groups since the murder of George Floyd have insisted that Oakland officials address the root causes of violence such as a lack of jobs and housing. Those same groups have demanded that less money go toward policing.

City councilmembers met those demands initially by diverting money away from the Police Department but have since returned the funds. Others, like Mayor Libby Schaaf, have stood by the police, essentially arguing that law enforcement is part of the solution to violence.

Schaaf said in a statement that the Department of Violence Prevention’s, “community-driven initiatives are a key element of Oakland’s holistic approach to reducing crime and violence.”

DVP’s “neighborhood-based programs, gender violence prevention, and life coaching are some of the programs that we know can be successful in promoting a safer city,” Schaaf said. “Oaklanders can look forward to deep investments over the next two years to address violence at its roots.”

Doubling down on violence prevention

The funding allocated by the City Council is for the period starting July 1 and ending June 30, 2023. Grantees will be given an opportunity to renew funding through the end of 2024.

With the $19.3 million allocation, DVP is doubling funding for community-based violence interrupters, enhancing life coaching for youth and adults and increasing by more than 50 percent the funding for responding to gender-based violence.

The department is using $2.4 million for crisis response in partnership with the Oakland Unified School District. Specifically, the two have created Violence Intervention and Prevention teams, which include a violence interrupter, gender-based violence specialist and youth life coach.

A half a million dollars will be available to Oakland residents for grant projects that promote healing and reduce violence. Past projects have included murals, native dance performances, food giveaways and wellness gift bags for mothers who have lost loved ones to violence.

One such grant was made to Each One Teach One HEAL, a West Oakland organization that serves daughters, mothers and families. The organization uses cooking as a way for family members to engage with one another.

Other dollars will go toward, among other things, training Oakland residents to address trauma and violence where they live.

“We’re now better resourced to uproot violence from the source,” said East Oakland Councilmember Loren Taylor, a mayoral candidate, in a statement. “Whether it is providing trauma-informed counseling, building social cohesion, or implementing early intervention strategies, these dollars will help curtail violence in our community.”

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.