Shootings Soar in Oakland; Children Often the Victims

Shoshana Walter, New York Times, January 7, 2012

Five-year-old Gabriel Martinez Jr. died Dec. 30, shot as he played under a streetlight near his father’s taco truck on an East Oakland street corner. He was the third young child killed in Oakland since August, the 110th homicide of 2011, and the 199th juvenile shooting victim of more than 2,000 people who were victims of gun violence in an especially bloody year in an increasingly violent city.

His killer has not been found. There have been no arrests. In that, the shooting of the boy known in the neighborhood as Gabrielito is typical. According to preliminary data provided to The Bay Citizen by the Oakland Police Department, of the 1,500 reported incidents of gun violence in the city last year, arrests were made in just 117 of the cases—less than 8 percent. In 2010, the police made arrests in close to 13 percent of the 1,280 shootings.

There were 1,045 shootings in 2009, according to the police department.

After several years of declining rates of violent crime in the Bay Area, Oakland shooting incidents increased dramatically in 2011. On an average day, five or six people were shot or shot at. The number of shootings is up 60 percent in the past five years, according to Urban Strategies Council, a crime analysis firm previously under a city contract.

Law enforcement officials and crime experts said they did not know why Oakland experienced such a spasm of violence in 2011.

“If I could tell you what the causes were, then that would be a great story because then we could figure things out and wrap this up in no time,” said Sgt. Chris Bolton, the department’s chief of staff. “Obviously, we have in this city a problem with violence.”

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