Safety and violence are among the most critical issues facing youth in Oakland—one of the most violent cities in America. East Oakland experiences a disproportionate amount of the city’s violence where:

  • Homicide is the leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds.
  • 44% of the youth at neighboring Castlemont High School have contact with the criminal justice system.
  • Rates of domestic violence are the highest of any city in Alameda County.
  • East Oakland has nearly three times the rate of child abuse/neglect cases than the county overall.


The Oakland Strategy: YU, OPD, Oakland Community Organizations, and Urban Peace Movement launched a comprehensive strategy to reduce Oakland’s crime and violence, emphasizing early prevention, intervention and enforcement.  The team secured funding for the first street-based outreach program in Oakland, which was later replicated citywide through Measure Y.

LeaderSHIFT: Out of the intense necessity to reduce violence, YU implemented LeaderSHIFT—gender specific retreats geared toward the most at-risk young people. Participants raise self-awareness, address trauma, begin the healing process, learn alternative methods to addressing conflicts, and develop positive life plans. YU has noticed a significant decrease in violence among the young people who attend the retreats.

Code 33 Youth/Police Dialogue: In partnership with OPD, YU launched “Code 33”—an interactive curriculum designed to improve youth–police relations and promote understanding and mutual respect. Code 33 increases the consciousness of officers and youth about each other, their history, and their politics. Youth and police who participate report deeper understanding and real benefits in the streets.

Statewide Gang Reduction Model: YU hosted former Governor Schwarzenegger and former Mayor Dellums for the launch of the Governor’s gang prevention initiative–CalGRIP, which replicated elements of YU’s work statewide.

Moving Forward

YU is coordinating an internal multi-pronged Violence Prevention Task Force to focus on activities such as:

  • Youth-led outreach and presentations to local secondary schools to discuss and raise awareness about violence alternatives and prevention.
  • Establishing an East Oakland community violence prevention campaign.
  • Continuing facilitated discussions between youth and OPD officers.
  • Coordinating chaperoning services to ensure students arrive and leave school safely.