Oakland's Murder Rate Is Soaring

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Oakland is dealing with a soaring murder rate that's almost double the number of homicides right now compared to this time last year.

Unless police can slow down the murder spike, the city could face a triple digit murder rate by the end of the year.

The Sunday evening just before the July 4th holiday there was another murder -- this one in west Oakland. This time it was a 14-year-old boy on his way to a barbeque who was shot to death.

Jaee Logan was a promising football player who appeared to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Dorothy Thompson, victim's grandmother: "I don't know who shot him or why they'd shoot him."

In Oakland, shrines are becoming all too familiar. They appear after the yellow crime tapes are gone.

So far this year, there have been 71 homicides in Oakland -- 30 more than last year this time.

The graveyard display next to this church is sobering testimony.

There may be more murders, but the profiles of both suspects and victims and the way they die have changed little.

The killers and those killed are usually young African American men and the victims' last breaths were taken mostly on sidewalks.

Off. Roland Holmgren, Oakland police spokesman: "Most of our homicides happen on the streets and most of our homicides happen due to a gun."

Behind the trigger? The usual causes. Drugs and gangs.

This year, the face of those gangs is changing.

Lt. Ersie Joyner, Oakland police homicide: "Hispanic gangs are up 20 to 25 percent. The victims are also young male Hispanics."

In 1992, homicides reached record levels in Oakland.

By July of that year, 106 people had been murdered, up more than 40 percent from the previous year.

City officials considered drastic measures like curfews, street barricades and check points.

The FBI and the state attorney general sent help to Oakland police.

Likewise, federal narcotics agents have now joined forces with Oakland police who are now targeting high crime areas.

Off. Roland Holmgren, Oakland police spokesman: "This strategic area command gives command the flexibility to move officers throughout the city to attack hot spots."

That strategy appears to be paying off with other crimes like rapes and domestic violence.

Police have a problem in solving these crimes, which is common in other cities as well, and that's the reluctance of witnesses to come forward.

The city of Oakland is just 23 shy of last year's record for the entire year.

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