By John Blackstone, CBS News Correspondent
OAKLAND (CBS News) — The city of Oakland is looking for new ideas to stop a surge in gun violence. On Wednesday it hired William Bratton, the former Los Angeles police chief, as a consultant.
Last year there were 117 gun deaths in Oakland, and there’s been 14 since the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut six weeks ago.
Some have called Oakland “a war zone going on,” and hundreds of Oakland residents attended a city council meeting on Tuesday night.
Jessica Hollie, an expectant mother, said: “I tried to talk about this a lot before I came because I didn’t want to cry: I am sad and scared to be having a black boy in Oakland.”
That fear of gun violence is shared by Vice Mayor Larry Reid.
“When I go out to community meetings I have a bullet proof vest that I wear, but I don’t have a gun,” Reid said.
Oakland has a long history of crime linked to drugs, gangs, and poverty, but on a single day recently four people were shot dead within six hours.
“It’s too many guns on the streets,” said Vice Mayor Reid, when asked to diagnose the problem in Oakland. “(They’re) in the hands of young people that aren’t afraid to take your life or my life.”
Reid also blames budget cuts which have reduced the police from 800 officers to 600.
“On any given shift, in a city of 400,000 people, there’s only 40 officers on our streets to deal with the issues that this city is faced with,” said Reid, adding that criminals know the police usually can’t get there in time.
Oakland has only about 15 police officers for every 10,000 residents, less than half what many other large cities have. Last year, 131 people were murdered in Oakland.
“We need help and we need help bad,” Reid said.
It’s help that can’t come soon enough in a city with too few police and too many bad guys with guns.
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