OAKLAND (KPIX) – There has been a spike in violent crime in Oakland and the city has is getting help to reverse the trend.

According to the latest statistics, homicides, aggravated assaults, rapes and robberies were up seven percent in 2019, a trend the city wants to end.

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That is where Chief Guillermo Cespedes comes in.

“This is Oakland – we have a lot of work to do,” says Cespedes.

He has been hired as Oakland’s Chief of Violence Prevention and he is credited with reducing gang-related homicides in Los Angeles within two years.

Cespedes admits he has quite a list to tackle.

“To reduce gun violence, sex trafficking, reduce number of cold cases that remain open.”

The new anti-violence czar says cutting violence starts through a public health approach with community policing and community service. It’s not a perfect science but he says it’s been a successful formula in other troubled cities.

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He starts by identifying risk factors.

“The risk factors that lead people to commit violence. Those risk factors could be economic, they could be psychological, they could be pressure in the community. There are a lot risk factors that push to act in a particular way,” says Cespedes. “We now know ways to identify those risk factors and address them.’

“And that is where our hope for our future lies – to disrupt the upstream factors,” says Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

The city hopes to reduce homicides by 80 percent in the next 3 years.

Cespedes has been on the job since September. His department will operate on an annual $10 million budget.

“In a time of crisis which the city of Oakland is going thru you try to choose the best option,” says Cespedes.

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Oakland will pay for the anti-violence program with special tax funding from Measure Z, which voters approved back in 2014.

Juliette Goodrich