March | April 2017

Stakeholder Corner: Oakland Leverages OJJDP Funding To Extend Violence Prevention Efforts

By Mailee C. WangOakland Unite logo

Like many U.S. cities, my hometown—Oakland, CA—is characterized by affluent neighborhoods that starkly contrast with poorer, high-crime areas prone to drug trafficking, gun violence, and the violent victimization of youth. In 2004, the residents took an uncommon problem-solving approach to this issue and passed the Measure Y voter initiative. We taxed ourselves to support violence prevention programs, along with police and fire safety services, for 10 years. Oakland Unite, the organization I work for, came to be through a collaboration of violence prevention programs funded by Measure Y resources. Our programming focuses on our highest risk community members and neighborhoods and emphasizes interrupting violence now and preventing it in the future.

OJJDP supported Measure Y with a 3-year, $2.2 million Community-Based Violence Prevention (CBVP) progam grant. The CBVP program provides funding for localities to replicate proven strategies, such as the Boston Gun Project, the Richmond (CA) Comprehensive Homicide Initiative, and the Chicago CeaseFire model, to reduce violence in targeted communities. We used our grant to replicate components of the CeaseFire model, expand street outreach efforts, provide training and technical assistance for outreach workers, and initiate a public education campaign. OJJDP also awarded our city $1.8 million in Second Chance Act grants over the course of 4 years to help develop Oakland Unite's Juvenile Justice Center. One of the center's priorities is to reconnect formerly detained youth with schools immediately upon reentry.

External evaluation demonstrated Measure Y’s effectiveness, so community stakeholders pulled together again in 2014 and renewed the program as Measure Z, reauthorizing violence prevention and intervention funding for another 10 years. Although OJJDP’s CBVP funding to the city expires this year, Measure Z is providing approximately $8 million annually to extend many of our efforts launched under that grant into 2024.

Before OJJDP funding, the Oakland Human Services Department (OHSD) had one full-time street outreach coordinator and three part-time street outreach workers, paid for through Measure Y. Now, the city has 17 full-time outreach workers housed at community-based organizations, and 2 more positioned within OHSD—all paid for by Measure Z. At Oakland Unite, we’ve used CBVP funding to enhance outreach efforts already underway and engage the community in changing norms around violence through hosting community events and piloting an intensive life coaching strategy, all of which have proven to be integral parts of our violence prevention and intervention services. Now, every year, we provide 4,000 individuals with intensive services and touch more than 17,000 people through our community outreach efforts.

Our efforts have paid dividends. We’ve positively affected our community through intensive life coaching, community asset building, education, economic self-sufficiency, and violent incident and crisis response strategies and programming. Although nearly three-fourths of participants join our programs with one or more violent or serious arrests, only a little more than one-fourth are arrested within 2 years of starting the program. We are helping to make the community safer not only for youth, but all other residents as well.


To learn more about Oakland Unite and its initiatives, visit the program’s website.

Mailee C. Wang is a program planner at Oakland Unite. She has been with the organization since 2014. Points of view or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.