The Oxnard Police Department has implemented a new line of attack in an old battle, and area residents are reaping the benefits. Armed to the teeth with strategy and national support, the city is enjoying summertime calm.
Gang violence in the city of Oxnard is down 60 percent, according to Oxnard Police Chief John Crombach. Eight months ago, Oxnard implemented Operation PeaceWorks, a $399,690, grant-funded California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention project (CalGRIP).
The project was modeled after the city of Boston’s highly successful 1995 Operation Ceasefire, which reduced homicides by people ages 24 and younger by 71 percent and brought a 70 percent reduction in gun assaults after two years of implementation. It’s an iron-fisted program that calls upon local, state and federal assistance to combat gang violence as well as provide viable alternatives to gang membership.
To initiate Operation PeaceWorks in the city, Oxnard police served a gang injunction on known gang affiliates.
“We have them come in and we let them know we know what they’re up to and who they are,” said Crombach, who was accompanied by the FBI during the injunction intervention. “Then we say, ‘Here is an opportunity . . . for job training services to get out of this life.’ ”
The gang-involved youth are offered intensive counseling, academic assistance, employment skills training and paid employment opportunities in Oxnard’s City Corps.
Those who take the opportunity then meet with counselors and other professionals involved in providing them with opportunities to work their way out of the injunction and into the community. But Crombach had a message for those who declined the offer out of gang-life.
“We will bring full weight of law every time they move. Get with the program,” Crombach said.
Though gang activity has dropped significantly in Oxnard, Crombach affirmed that it is no reason to celebrate.
However, as of late, criminal activity in Oxnard has been unprecedentedly quiet.
“I have never seen a six-week period go by like this,” said David Keith, a public spokesman for the Oxnard Police Department.
Keith said that every eight hours, he receives an e-mailed report about noteworthy events in Oxnard; and during the past six weeks, there have been very few reports of significance.
Contrary to public perception, Oxnard crime is steadily decreasing, noted Keith. He referenced 1992 as a peak crime year in Oxnard. Since then, crime in Oxnard is down 65 percent per capita.
“In 1992, we had a population of 147,505. Today we have around 200,000. You would think crime would go up 33 percent but it’s actually dropped in half,” Keith said and added that Oxnard has less crime per capita than Ventura and Santa Barbara.
Crombach noted that it is foolish to live and die by crime stats, but the positive support from the community has built momentum in the department’s battle for a peaceful city.
“We have a community to protect,” said Crombach. “We’re not going to let it down Mayor Tom Holden did not return calls by deadline.