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Community speaks out against new ordinances

Due to a 31 percent increase in gang violence, the Oakland City Council is attempting to impose a loitering ordinance and a juvenile protection curfew ordinance — both of which are intended to decrease violence in Oakland. The Council met on Oct. 4 to discuss its new public safety plans with the Oakland community.

Members of the Xicana Moratorium Coalition hold signs protesting the proposed youth curfew and loitering ordinances at the Oakland City Council meeting on Oct. 4 at City Hall. (Fatima Sugapong)

The meeting began with an open forum where members of the community had a chance to voice their opinions about the proposed ordinances. Nearly all those who spoke were opposed to the imposition of the loitering ordinance and the juvenile protection curfew, and many opposed expanding the gang injunction program already in place.

So far this year, 10 percent of homicides have been drug related.  The loitering ordinance is being proposed in the hopes that it will keep citizens from acting as lookouts, dealing drugs, exchanging currency or signals and being under the influence of narcotics in public, thereby preventing gang and drug activity. The loitering ordinance would be enforced by citation, and any further violations would lead to an arrest for a misdemeanor.

The Xicana Moratorium Coalition, an organization dedicated to ridding Oakland of its gang injunction program, feels that the loitering is tied to unemployment in the community. Prohibiting loitering would compromise many citizens’ job search.

“It’s their way to push (us) out of the community,” said Jackie Garcia, a member of the Xicana Moratorium Coalition and a student at Met West High School.

Under new ordinances, youth curfew hours would be between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. during school days to prevent truancy and gang violence.

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has a youth fellowship program called Heal the Streets. They advocate more positive solutions to the violence in Oakland through support and education for the youth.

“I believe that the money and resources needed to implement ineffective measures like the curfew could be better invested into vital community services, especially those targeted towards our youth,” said Nwamaka Agbo, Campaign Director for Soul of the City. “Instead of paying police officers to patrol our streets and arrest our children, put that money towards meaningful afterschool programs.”

City Council members Desley Brooks, Rebecca Kaplan and Nancy J. Nadel highlighted the fallacy of passing an underdeveloped policy. They said that implementing these measures would require resources that the City does not have. The City would have to figure out how to train their officers to enforce these laws, which could cause budgetary problems.

“It is mind-boggling to me where we are going to get these resources from,” Brooks said.
Brooks suggested a return to the regular practice of sending these items to the appropriate committee to create a better understanding of its purpose in order to effectively prevent drug crimes and gang violence.