Feds to Help Fight Crime in Oakland, Richmond

Ongoing efforts to reduce high crime rates in Oakland and Richmond will be helped by a new federal initiative that was announced Monday by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said.

Speaking at a news conference outside the federal building in Oakland, Lee said the "Violence Reduction Network" will enhance existing partnerships by federal and local officials to fight crime.

Lee said the area that encompasses Oakland and Richmond is only one of five in the country to be chosen to participate in the two-year pilot program.

The others are Chicago, Detroit, Camden, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Delaware.

She said the sites were chosen because they have violent crime rates above the national average, represent diverse geographic locations and display a readiness to participate in innovative methods in crime reduction.

Lee said, "Every person, in every community, deserves to feel safe. In an age of shrinking federal, state and local budgets, we must maximize every dollar to develop and implement effective violence reduction strategies."

Lee said each of the five locations will be assigned a "strategic liaison" to coordinate efforts between local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Joining Lee at the news conference, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said Oakland is on track to have its lowest number of homicides since 1999 but she welcomes the additional federal help because previous federal assistance helped bring about the arrest of suspects in several high-profile crimes, such as the fatal shooting of 23-month-old Hiram Lawrence Jr. in 2011.

"We will have one point of contact with the Department of Justice to get resources when gang issues happen," Quan said.

The mayor said federal officials "will focus on particularly heinous crimes."

Lee said the new program includes a variety of strategies to fight crime, not just extra police officers.

Other strategies include gun control and community programs that give young people health and productive options, Lee said.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who didn't attend the news conference, said in a statement that the Violence Reduction Network "is the kind of forward thinking strategy that will improve our ability to combat violent crime."

Miller said, "By working together, we have the ability to harness the strengths of both local and federal agencies and build on the progress that we have already made in creating safe communities."

In announcing the program in Washington, D.C., Holder said the program is needed because in some cities "crime rates have remained stubbornly, unacceptably high."

Holder said, "There are still far too many places where social ills like poverty, unemployment and widespread lack of opportunity continue to trap people in lives of crime and incarceration, conditions that give rise to tense and often tragic circumstances in which systemic violence can easily take root."

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