Shared Solutions, Stronger Oakland

California Partnership for Safe Communities works with Reygan every step of the way to plan and implement evidence-based, data-driven strategies for reducing violence in Oakland.

Born and raised in East Oakland, Reygan Harmon grew up thinking that urban life and violence went hand-in-hand. She thought it was normal to have multiple family members shot or see memorials to dead friends on the walk to school.

When Reygan left the state to go to college, she saw something different. In Atlanta, where she was studying, and on visits to Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, she noticed that cities could have both diverse populations and low crime rates.

“I was in places with African-American populations where it was safe to walk the streets, and people were not getting murdered,” Reygan said. “I realized that violence and diversity didn’t have to go together. In Oakland, African Americans were 28 percent of the population and 78 percent of homicide victims and suspects. I realized that this was not normal — it was a public safety emergency.”

When she returned to her hometown for a career in public service, Reygan knew she wanted to make a difference. She also knew she would have to find a new approach to Oakland’s violence problem.

Reygan had seen the city’s failed attempts to reduce violence. Whether it was youth curfews or gang injunctions, it simply wasn’t working. What Oakland lacked was a clear definition of the problem — an understanding of who was at risk of involvement with violence — and a plan that would make the city safer for everyone, without relying on incarceration.

“I was in a department that didn’t have a strategy,” Reygan said.

She worked with the California Partnership for Safe Communities to coordinate a comprehensive review of gun violence in Oakland. Reygan learned the importance of data in analyzing violence trends and how that information could be used to effect change.

Even though it was clear which areas of Oakland had the most crime, previous analyses didn’t identify the specific individuals who were most at risk, so police focused on people who weren’t at the heart of the problem. This drained city resources, did little to improve safety and damaged community relationships.

“We got an eye-opening analysis from California Partnership for Safe Communities,” Reygan said. “They showed us what was motivating the incidents and who was at the highest risk of violence. It was a level of information we had never seen. It allowed us to have a laser focus.”

With the support of CPSC, the police department began to hold weekly shooting and homicide review meetings. Investigators, patrol officers, felony assault detectives and others in the police department united to analyze and share information. This had never been done before. Working with CPSC, Reygan now uses this information to support a diverse partnership of community members, service providers and justice system agencies to save lives in Oakland.