Solutions to Violence, Part III: Buy back the guns

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It’s been a tough couple of years for Bay Area cities regarding violent crime. San Jose is on track to have its highest murder rate in 20 years. And Oakland is seeing about a thirty percent increase in homicides. It’s hard to say why this increase is happening.

AARON SMITH: I think there is an ebb and flow process. It may be a lot now, it may be less next year.

Aaron Smith is a mental health worker and social worker for kids in East Oakland.

SMITH: I also rap. I go by the name of Big Easy.

For the final chapter in our series on possible solutions to violence in Oakland, KALW’s Rina Palta talks with Smith about his ideas for bringing peace to his neighborhood, the Deep East.

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AARON SMITH: I’ve done crisis management and crisis evaluation, and I know that when we do these, we look for three specific things: It’s like plans, means, and access, right? So if a person has a plan to harm somebody or commit an act of violence, right? If they don’t have the access or means to do that act, there may be less chance of the act happening. And so one thing that jumps out at me, and I know that these programs have been successful in the past, is gun buy-back programs. I think that if city government, or even local residents can do some kind of fundraising even to raise money in order to purchase guns from community members, I think that will have a significant impact on reducing crime. Especially around violent acts in the community. I feel like, especially with the economic times the way they are, that money is a big factor for a lot of different people. So if you can make that available, and also address community violence at the same time, that would really be impactful.

Another short-term strategy. I’m a 31-year-old social worker in Oakland, and I feel that in my business, I get a lot of perspectives from not only young people, but older people as well. And some of the perspectives as well about why the violence is happening, a lot of people like to blame the youth, right? They say, “The youth are crazy these days, they don’t pay attention,” or “they all have guns,” right? And one thing that to me jumps out, in terms of strategies to address it, is there’s a lack of monitoring happening. There’s a lack of monitoring happening whether it’s at home or in the community. And I feel like a short term strategy to address lack of monitoring could also be increased mentoring programs.

The last thing that I would like to say about short-term strategies is I feel like in a community, people have to have a sense of pride and slowly but surely, I think things are changing in terms of pride in the community. Community beautification projects or community gardens, local farmers markets, this is specifically in Oakland! And I think there’s a change happening, a shift in the amount of pride a person has for their community.

Hear Part I of this series here, and Part II here.