Crime prevention though social development - implementation proposal for the city of Oakland

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Crime prevention though social development – implementation proposal for the city of Oakland


Crime can simply be defined as a public wrong. To be wrong, one must contravene a social standards defined by members of the society and that have come to be the law. Simply, if you break standard X you are subject to law Y. Standard X acts as the benchmark and the law will be reiterative to all those below the standard. This cycle is self-sustaining since the underlying factor “why are they below the standard” is not addressed. Social development aims at focusing not at the law but at the standard, the sole motivating or causative factor for not adhering to law Y. By addressing social-economic and mental abilities of individuals below the standard the need for the law is diminished.

The city of Oakland –crime prevention through social development

Oakland city is located in the state of California. In the San Francisco Bay, Oakland is one of the major port cities with the busiest port. It is the 47th-largest city in the U.S and eighth-largest city in the state with a population of 399,487 (FBI 2013). The city serves as a trade center and transportation hub for the East Bay region.

Oakland has a mayor-council government with the current being Mayor Jean Quan. Oakland is Alameda County, with Alameda County Government providing and financing county services such as elections and law enforcement, jails, tax collection, public health, social services and voter registration services.

Oakland is part of 9th Senate District, with Democrat Loni Hancock as the representative. In the state legislature, it is represented by Nancy Skinner (15th Assembly district) and Rob Bonta (18th Assembly district. Oakland is in California's 13th congressional district, represented by Democrat Barbara Lee in the United States House of Representatives (Oaklandb 2014).

Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) operates most Oakland’s public schools, but has been in California state receivership since 2002. The Oakland Unified School District includes 19 high schools, 23 middle schools and 59 elementary schools.

Oakland is ethnically diverse with, whites alone residents constituting 34.5%, blacks 28% of the population, non-Hispanic whites 25.9%, and Hispanics at 25.4% %. 20.3% of the population lives below the poverty level according to 2008-2012 national census data which is above California state average of 15.3% (US census 2010).

Violent Crime

Oakland has constantly been listed as one of the most unsafe cities in the United States in the 21st century (Oakland a 2010). Oakland with a population of 399,487 has a violent crime rate of 1026 offenses per 100,000 which is 2.5 times higher than the US national violent crime rate at 386.9 per 100,000. Compared to other cities within California state Bakers field with a population of 355,696 has a rate of approximately 263 while Anaheim with a population of 344,526 has a rate of 178 violent crime offenses per 100,000 (FBI 2013). With marginal population difference between the three states, Oakland police department has implemented measures aimed at reducing the rate.

It has combated the rise with conventional reiterative justice, with results of alleged misconduct by the Oakland Police Department. $57 million was paid to victims of alleged police brutality during the 2001-2011 timeframe (KTVU 2011). Activist and protesters began "Occupy Oakland" demonstrations on October 10, 2011, directed against social and economic inequality.

Racial profiling and below average education level for most of the potential recruits, the city is faced with a staffing, funding and rising crime challenge. To reinvent itself in terms of security, Oakland needs a more robust model of crime prevention that focuses on the root cause of the rising violent crimes. Crime prevention through social development offers this alternative.

Social development approach

Crime prevention is a rubbery concept with elastic boundaries tackled with multi-faceted and multi-form policies, programs, models and objectives (McMillan 1992). Crime costs the community loss of productivity, policing, criminal justice administration and court costs. To prevent crime strategies and measures that seek to reduce the risk of crimes occurring, and their potential harmful effects on individuals and society are implemented.

Crime prevention through the promotion of social development and social inclusion and participation is far more cost-effective than criminal justice responses such as incarceration. Prevention policy moves beyond a fixation with deviance and deviants and begins to address all the contributing factors of these behaviors (Sutton et al 2008). Approaching crime prevention through social-cultural development and community capacity building makes local communities more livable, happy and healthy places for all by reducing the rates crime occurrence.

Crime prevention through Social Development (CPSD) acknowledges the underlying complex social, economic and cultural processes that contribute to crime and victimization. CPSD endeavors to bridge the gap between criminal justice policies and programs and social support for individuals, families, and communities (Kelly et al 2005). It does this by tackling the factors, which contribute to crime and victimization, and are amendable to change.

CPSD focuses on risk factors that contribute to involvement with crime including: inadequate living conditions, such as family factors- family poverty, poor or inadequate parenting, parental criminality, and parental substance abuse, individual personality and behavior factors, such as failure to consider the consequences of behavior, as well as the early onset of aggressive behavior, peer association, school-related factors, such as poor educational achievement and truancy, and exclusionary policies, community connections, such as sense of place and identity.

It seeks to nurture protective factors, such as positive family support that mitigate situations of risk or disadvantage that contribute to crime and victimization. The protective aspects reduce the risk of harm. CPSD is heavily dependent on policies and programs interconnected with housing, education, health, employment and other social services that play an important role in preventing crime. However, by focusing on social development, CPSD takes time for the crime prevention benefits to accumulate.

School determines a child's life chances as it socializes, evaluates, and educates. In doing so, it determines both the student's life chances and his or her immediate sense of self-worth. Students who do well in school are far less likely to be at risk of becoming involved in delinquent activities. Research indicates that there has been success where schools use curricula culturally relevant to students, communicate behavior norms to students, recruiting local staff that understand and meet the needs of local people and inclusive learning environments for all students (Linden 2001).

Success at school is affected by skills gained during early development stages. Skills such as ability to control emotions, cooperate and work with others are obtained during the first six years hence the need to strengthen families. The risk of being involved in violent acts, substance abuse and teen pregnancy is higher for children who do not acquire these skills prior to joining school (Hertzman 2001).

During the development stage and early school years, children learn alternatives to physical aggression. Those who don’t acquire the ability to make positive judgments or alternatives of physical aggression become inattentive, anxious; they are unable to cooperate with their classmates, perform poorly, and their behavior disrupts school activities. Deviance characteristics are expressed early in these children from pre-adolescence onward, being violent offenders (Tremblay 2001). By having social policies and strategies that cater for them at this stage, development into criminals is altered.

Social capital building: Healthy communities support their citizens from an early age by building their abilities to develop crime and disorder alternatives. Community capacity building is essentially about developing a sense of belonging, self-esteem thus eliminating the need for criminal behavior. Social crime prevention attempts to reduce the likelihood of individuals and/or groups coming into contact with the criminal justice system by addressing and strengthening both the formal and informal networks that shape and determine behavioral orientation of individuals (Waller 2006).

Effectiveness of social development in crime prevention


Boston has a violent crime rate of 389 offenses per 100,000 (population 630,648) (FBI 2013). It developed a comprehensive crime reduction plan with its major focus being education. The Circle of Promise strategy aims at enhancing student achievement, after school period creates idle time that can result in gang recruitment. The Community Learning Initiative creates programs to engage the youth during these periods.

Boston is part of the federal Defending Childhood Initiative aimed at harnessing federal resources raise awareness on youth violence and to mitigate the negative impacts of youth exposure to violence. The city has enhanced communication and information sharing on crime and crime prevention techniques. As part of its community policing program, the city has promoted the community participation in the efforts to reduce youth violence. These initiatives are aimed at improving the social standards of the youth, creating a safer environment in the future (Jeffrey 2012).

San Jose

With a violent crime rate of 160.8 offenses per 100,000 (population 976,459) San Jose is one of the safest cities in California (FBI 2013). It has implemented its Action Collaboration Transformation (ACT) plan since 2008 that is aimed at ensuring youth succeed in school, community and achieve their dreams. ACT collaborates with of community residents, school administrators, law enforcement and youth to create public awareness about violence and violence prevention, and expand service delivery to the residents of San Jose.

Collaboration initiatives have increased the efficiency of city agencies and freed resources by eliminating duplication. Stakeholders in the collaboration fund and participate in youth-oriented programs that address the issues underlying youth violence such as mental health, relationships with their families and education. The strategies address these issues through mentoring and role modeling, volunteer activities, job training, substance abuse counseling, sports intended to keep youth busy and build their physical and mental abilities (Jeffrey 2012).


To achieve significant success utilizing crime prevention through social development approach, I recommend a three tier implementation system: Individual-level, family-level and community-level policies and strategies.

Public policies should be aimed at achieving the following goals: ensure families have the ability to meet children’s growth and developments through income policies which reduce social inequality meet their developmental needs. Investment into education will be aimed at strengthening young people. Having a large sector of the population skilled and educated is the basis of a healthy and a functional community. These institutions play an important role in crime prevention and community development by defining morals and perceptions.

The city should develop policies that support the following goals: provide support and guidance to vulnerable adolescents, offer educational programs that keep young people at risk in the school system and fostering society accepted behavior. Of importance is reduction of aggressive behavior and increasing social skills.

There is limited capacity on what can be achieved through social crime prevention if the local community is characterized by unemployment and poverty. Healthy families require a constant and sustaining source of income, able to cater for food, housing and social development. Oakland should focus on having a greater part of its unskilled population in the bay reducing the number of idle people and improving income for these families.

By improving the level and standard of education young people will be able to obtain long-term employment stability, and economic future. This will reduce the high levels of unemployment that block career and economic development and make crime less alluring.


Social development as a mechanism of combating crime is an expensive and long term investment. The city of Oakland has paid $57million in police brutality claims, by re-orienting police training and their approach to crime prevention, this money (approximately $5.7 million per year) can be used to fund youth initiatives such as paid summer placements in different city departments.

Collaboration with the local community, faith groups, companies and external donors will be key in sustaining a social development policy. With collaboration, the city can use community volunteers to escort students to and from school, a partnership that save the city much needed cash. Religious organizations, co-ordinated by city officials can offer holiday activities and peer counseling that can be funded directly by the city.

The city should restructure its budget to increase funding towards education and social programs. During the first few years of its implementation, CSPD will cost more than the returns, with time the level of education, living standards and community cohesiveness will improve reducing crime - San Jose as an example of an implementation time from 2008.


In the short term, there may be minor changes in the violent crime rates as the society adopts the new model of crime prevention. During this time education levels are expected to improve.

Community based strategies will have a slow rate of embracement with social-economic inequality playing a key role.

In the long term, with improved education standards and a society informed of the importance of early child development, significant reduction in violent crimes rate is expected.

Having set the foundation for this model, the cost of sustaining it, is expected to decrease with time, freeing up more resources for other priority areas for the city.


Social development focuses on having community members above the defined standards. By creating an enabling environment for education and employment, potential criminals attain mental and social ability to be above standard set. An enabling and integrative society is able to give all a sense of belonging and an easy monitoring and detecting those falling below the standard even before they turn to violent criminal activities.

Crime prevention through social development addresses the why individuals commit crime. Once implemented it is a self-sustaining method and has proven to be of significance in various cities. Oakland should be no different; addressing the social imbalances and empowering the community will result in reduction in violent crime rates.


Federal Bureau of Investigation (2013) “Crime in the United States 2012” Retrieve February 20, 2014

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Jeffrey A. Butts, Kathleen Tomberg, Douglas Evans, Rhoda Ramdee, Caterina Roman and Caitlin Taylor National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention – Interim Report 1 March 28 2012 Retrieved February 20, 2014

Kelly, Katharine D. Caputo, Tullio. Jamieson, Wanda (2005) “Reconsidering sustainability: some implications for community-based crime prevention” Critical Social Policy Vol 25(3):306-324.

KTVU - Investigation reveals East Bay city paying out extraordinary police abuse settlements Nov 14, 2011 Retrieved February 20, 2014.

Linden Rick (2001) "Crime Prevention in Aboriginal Communities" Available from Retrieved February 20, 2014

Matthew Artz “In Oakland, police struggle to find recruits”. San Jose Mercury News February 14th 2014 Retrieved February 20, 2014

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proceedings/15/mcmillan.ashx Retrieved February 20, 2014

Oakland a Moves from 3rd to 5th In Most Dangerous City Survey. CBS San Francisco. Bay City News. November 22, 2010. Retrieved February 20, 2014.

Oakland b Representatives Retrieved February 20, 2014

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