By Christin Ayers

OAKLAND (KPIX) — Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf and police chief Anne Kirkpatrick are crediting the city’s central crime-fighting strategy, Operation Ceasefire, for a dramatic drop in the city’s murder rate.

“This represents an unprecedented six-year reduction in homicides and injury shootings combined,” said Schaaf.

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“The reduction is not by accident. It is definitely by intentional partnerships,” Kirkpatrick said. “Our strategy for reducing gun violence is through the Operation Ceasefire strategy.”

Operation Ceasefire brings together law enforcement, faith groups, community members and social services agencies to try to convince criminals to leave behind a life of crime.

But Father Aidan McAleenan, pastor of St. Columba Church, a North Oakland Catholic church known for social activism, said the city could be doing more for the people of Oakland.

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“Clearly they have more money in their coffers so it should now be distributed to places that would help our economic poor,” he said.

At St. Columba, a large Black Lives Matter sign hangs from the front of the church. For the past eight years, church members have placed white crosses on the lawn, representing the number of people murdered in Oakland.

McAleenan said while he applauds the reduction in gun violence, he would like to see the city expand Ceasefire, fast-track affordable housing, funnel more money into Oakland schools and fight homelessness and gentrification more aggressively.

His church has taken down the crosses that they put up for 2018 but he says, as the year goes on, the crosses will slowly go back up.

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“We’ll start all over again, hoping that the number goes down even further and hoping with God’s help that one day this is redundant and we don’t need to use this wood for this purpose.”