Fresh from a visit to Washington D.C., Mayor Jean Quan kicked off the training for the newest members of the Measure Y-funded Oakland Street Outreach Team this morning by mentioning that President Barack Obama told her he's got an eye on their progress with violence prevention.
"The Obama administration really believes in this program. Let's make him proud of this extra investment they made in this program," Quan said.
Since April 2008, the team has been walking out to high-crime areas on nights and weekends to provide confidential mentoring and social resources outreach . In many cases, those on the team are from the areas they are serving or come from a similar background of the people they hope to help — people may find it difficult to trust the community police officers.
This year, the team is securely backed by funding from fall ballot Measure BB — the so-called “Measure Y fix” — and a federal grant, while City of Oakland staffers track teams’ progress even more closely. The newly increased scrutiny is both a blessing and a curse, Kevin Grant, the team's coordinator, told members.
"They let us do what we're supposed to do. That's a blessing," Grant said. "But the malediction is what? If you ain't doin' it — you understand what I'm saying?"
Though a definite connection can't be drawn between the program and lower crime rates last year, the statistics imply a positive correlation. The average per-day crime rate fell to less than half of what it was the year before in one of the four West Oakland areas targeted, while it fell by about third in the other three areas in the 2008-09 fiscal year.
New members will start venturing out into those areas as well as some new hot spots in East Oakland this Friday and Saturday night wearing white jackets with a blue and yellow logo designating them part of the Measure Y Street Outreach Team.
For more information about the Measure Y Street Outreach Team, visit its website here.