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Oakland leaders see connection between rise in gun violence and coronavirus

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – Oakland police are seeing a troubling spike in crime. Assaults with a firearm are up more than 30-percent this year.

You can see where ShotSpotter technology has pinpointed gunfire.

This year, the system has been activated more than 2,600 times.

A COVID-19 connection to the city of Oakland experiencing a 34% increase in gun violence.

“Those shootings are happening in East Oakland and West Oakland where I live,” Noel Gallo said. 

And Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo says he sees a direct link to a rise in shootings in East Oakland and the state of California releasing inmates from jail due to COVID-19.

“We’re getting people released from prison coming to Oakland. They don’t have a job. No place to live. So we turn to the next thing we used to do growing up, even in my immediate family, it was okay to steal. It was okay to protect yourself in different ways,” Gallo said. 

“What we have is kind of a perfect storm in many ways,” Guillermo Cespedes said. 

Guillermo Cespedes is the Chief of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention. 

He talks about the impact COVID-19 is having on his staff’s ability to implement their community-led strategies to prevent violent crime.

“Our work depends on community relationships. It is driven by our ability to stay in contact with key community influencers. All of that from our perspective has been disrupted. We’re still in the middle of the worst pandemics that we have ever been through,” Cespedes said. 

However, Cespedes says he sees no evidence the rise in violence is somehow being motivated by a movement to defund Oakland police.

“Unless community members are coming forward saying this is what is going on, I don’t know how you prove that?” Cespedes said. 

Either way Councilmember Gallo says OPD officers are still responsible to protect and the community their sworn to serve.

“It comes down to law enforcement. I cannot enforce the law. Neither can you. It takes a police officer,” Gallo said.

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