Scenes from the aftermath in Oakland:
stories of victims, survivors and healers.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Retaliatory: Street corner confrontations and Operation Ceasefire in Oakland

I will have an article in the October 2014 issue of San Francisco Magazine all about Oakland's Operation Ceasefire, the city's current violence prevention campaign, a collaborative effort among law enforcement, churches, service providers, former victims and former perpetrators. The piece looks at how Ceasefire works, whether it works, and whether it can survive, financially and politically. Comprehensive though the story is, some things could not be elaborated on, including custom notifications, one of the ways the Ceasefire partners communicate with the men they believe commit most of the violence here. So here is something I wrote about how these often tense meetings go down:

Retaliatory - Custom Notifications and Operation Ceasefire
When we have those painful stretches in Oakland, those weeks when there are three, even four killings in quick succession, often they are the result of retaliation. Meant to stanch that flow of retaliatory blood, Operation Ceasefire's most urgent mode of communication with the city's most violent, and its most vulnerable, is called a "custom notification."

Unlike call-ins, meetings which a dozen or more gang members attend, and which can take months to plan, custom notifications usually involve one potential victim or suspect, a person whom intelligence indicates is either in imminent danger of being shot, or who is planning to shoot. Custom notifications might take place on a street corner, in an apartment, at the jail. At these small, seemingly impromptu meetings, one or two highly-trained police officers, along with a probation officer, approach the suspect. Sometimes a street outreach worker who knows the suspect accompanies the officers. 

Usually the first part of the message is specific: You are in danger. 

Or, We know your sister got killed last week. We know you or your friends are gearing up to retaliate. We are watching you.

Then the Ceasfire message comes: We love you, we care about you. But this city cannot take any more violence. It must stop. If you help us, if you pull back, we can help you change your life. But if you or your associates strike, we will strike harder, and you will be gone, prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law, no deals possible, sent to the farthest away prison for as long as possible. The time is now to get out of the life, and we can help you. We have services -- job training, legal advice, substance abuse counseling -- whatever you need to exit this dangerous life alive and free.

There have been 48 custom notifications in Oakland since late 2012.

Also see: Death & the Mother: inside an Oakland gang call-in

Also, the October 2014 San Francisco article is out - Guns Down. Don't Shoot  

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