AG Eric Holder Gets Briefed on Oakland Gang Violence

AG Eric Holder Gets Briefed on Oakland Gang Violence

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OAKLAND, Calif.—U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came to Oakland this week to talk about gang violence and promised to take the city’s concerns back to Washington, D.C.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums told Holder that the city was still facing significant challenges. A large number of police officers were facing lay-offs, and various city youth programs could be closed. The city has received $3.2 million from the federal government for public safety, which can be used to hire police officers.

Holder said the problem of public safety required communities to work together and address the roots of crime.

“We don’t want to get tough on crime. We want to get smart,” Holder said at the event, which was held at Youth Uprising, an East Oakland-based youth organization.

He said he knew there was a lot of mistrust of law enforcement by the public that must be overcome. “And we can debate about tactics: of course there are some things that won’t work,” he said. “But the point is that we all want the same things. All Americans want clean, safe streets and education for their children.”

Dellums agreed with the approach. “In addition to enforcement, there is a big emphasis especially on prevention and intervention,” he said. “It’s restorative justice – schools working with the police department and community organizations addressing this problem as a community.”
Before his talk, Holder met with Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts, Superintendent of Schools Anthony Smith, Deputy Chief of Alameda County Probation Bonita Elaine Vincent and Deputy Director of the Alameda Country Department of Public Health Sandra Witt.

While one problem was resources, the other issue was to get the word out about what was really happening on the ground, not just news about the violence.

Vincent complained that the news media only reported violence, not the victories against crime. “We talk about dangerous crimes and criminals, but what about all the positive measures being taken?” she said.

Antoinette Wilson, of Youth UpRising, agreed. “Media professionals have the responsibility and the power to spread the real stories and the real voices we know exist, but never hear about,” she said.

But Wilson was happy that the attorney general had come to Oakland. “I honestly believe that we will get the help we need,” she said, “that they care about our community more than we thought they did.”