December 17, 2012
Scid Howard III grew up on the streets of East Oakland, so he knows what it’s like to be a teenager in a city where some young people are lost forever to gun violence and others live on, scarred physically and mentally. Howard himself was shot at age 19 and witnessed the shooting death of his best friend at age 17. He now counsels young people for several support organizations in Oakland to save them from a similar fate.
“My job is to figure out the math of it and try to solve it,” Howard said. “And I love these kids.”
In a city where 1,077 shootings were reported in 2011, no one is affected more than the city’s young people—city and community leaders say shootings of minors are not only particularly tragic but deeply affect them for years to come. Of the 1,594 reported shooting victims in Oakland last year, 143 were 17 years old or younger, according to data from the Oakland Police Department. Of these, six shootings were fatal. Some—including Howard—say the danger of gun violence among the city’s young people is increasing. “Today you got men teaching their children, “He gonna be the next me, he gonna be the next killer,’” Howard said. “It’s getting worse.”
Data compiled by the Urban Strategies Council—which works with, and collects data for, agencies like the OPD—shows the overall number of reported shootings rising in recent years, from 869 in 2009 to more than 1,200 in 2011, the highest since 2003, the earliest year for which they have data. Homicides—which are by and large committed by people with guns—have followed a similar trend. As of early December, 2012, the city had already seen 117 homicides, soaring past 103 for last year and perhaps reaching the highest total since 2008 police say, when 124 people died.
While the final statistics for the number of shootings in 2012 will not be available until early 2013, Oakland North reporters worked with the Oakland Police Department to obtain citywide shooting statistics for 2011, the most recent complete year on file. The data gives a unique snapshot of gun violence in Oakland. In particular, Oakland North analyzed shootings in which minors were victims to provide a better picture of gun violence in the city.