OAKLAND (KPIX) — While Oakland police arrest several suspects linked to the recent spike in violence and seize a stash of handguns and assault rifles, East Oakland residents are doing their part to take back their streets.

There has been a lot of discussion on defunding police but, Friday night with Oakland facing a crime wave, residents made a plea for people to settle disputes with words and not weapons.

Operation Ceasefire was deployed on the streets in hopes of reducing gang-related shootings and killings.

“I was born and raised in East Oakland,” Julie Hadnot, an East Oakland resident said. “I love East Oakland and I’m just hoping that more and more people will show up and be present and let our community members know we want them to thrive and survive.”

Oakland has seen 80 homicides so far this year compared to 58 at this time last year.

Oakland police say an increase in gang activity and early release of prisoners due to the coronavirus pandemic are some of the reasons for the increase in violent crime.

Interim police chief Susan Manheimer also points to kids being left to fend for themselves.

“These juveniles have no structure, no mentors and no relationship with the adult figures,” Manheimer said.

So these members of Ceasefire, who come from all walks of life, want to show they are here to care and listen.

“People are really struggling right now on a lot of levels and [we’re] able to provide a caring presence to those who are struggling the most.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf stood alongside members of Ceasefire at the corner of 82nd Avenue and Bancroft. She hopes the program shows how a partnership between a community based approach and the police will have a real impact on crime.

“I do believe the ‘defund the police’ conversation is about investing more in our values,” Mayor Schaaf explained. “In a city like Oakland, where we already have the lowest officer per crime staffing of any city in America, we must approach the conversation with that local knowledge in mind.”

During a five-year period starting in 2012 Oakland did see the number of shootings drop by nearly 50 percent and the city says Ceasefire played a role in the decrease in crime.

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