Oaklanders remain “crime obsessed”

Matier & Ross report today on a poll surveying Dellums’s performance since his inauguration in January. The results are not terribly positive for Dellums, although better than I would have guessed, so I suppose that’s decent news for him.

Unsurprisingly, the poll shows that people are concerned about crime above all else:

As for city problems, crime remains No. 1 – registering an 8.6 score on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most important.

And they should be. Safety concerns make it difficult for Oaklanders to enjoy their neighborhoods, and as I mentioned last Monday, are bad for business. In Sunday’s Trib, we learned that the Subway at Mandela Gateway is closing due to crime, after being robbed during broad daylight three times in a month. How depressing. NCPC leader Marcus Johson highlights the frustrations that many community members are feeling over the issue.

Marcus Johnson, a West Oakland resident and chair of the Prescott neighborhood crime prevention council, said the restaurant’s closure is a blow to the community and highlights the urgent need for community policing and beat patrols.

“He’s been robbed three times. He has cameras and customers, so that tells you that any business is not safe,” Johnson said. “It’s right across the street from BART. It’s busy there. Even with the 99 Cent store and Mandela Foods (both expected to open there next year), how are they going to open there and feel safe?”

Eslewhere, local writer Ishmael Reed echoes the concerns, telling San Francisco magazine:

The model city can come later. Stop the fucking crime.

Oakland residents are united in their message to their leaders. Sadly, as violent crime and robbery rates spike, the Oakland City Council is busying themselves with (sort-of) outlawing plastic bags, banning smoking at bus stops, and creating a citywide registry of “big trees.” I think that a large part of the lethargy on the part of the City Council comes from a sense that the problem so insurmountable that they have no idea where to even begin.

There appears to be a wide concensus among citizens that we need more police (although our Mayor disagrees), but efforts to fill even funded positions have been slow. In February 2005, when Measure Y’s implementation began, we had 697 officers. As of August 31st, although we have 803 positions approved, only 730 are filled (PDF!). It is difficult to recruit officers to Oakland, and even more so to recruit enough officers to keep pace with attrition (OPD has lost 138 officers since January of 2005, an average of 5.53 each month). Today’s 730 is better than the 720 (PDF!) we had in February, or the 712 (PDF!) we had on April 30th, but it still leaves us 5 sergeants and 68 officers short of what we’ve funded. The department will get another influx of police in January, once the 162nd Academy is completed. How many actual cops will come out of it is unclear. 45 candidates started the academy in July, but the number is already down to 37. A new academy will begin in October and end in April.

City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente announced his plans to address police staffing in a MyWord in last Saturday’s Trib. The highlights:

  • Moving sworn officers out of positions that can be staffed by civilians and onto the street.
  • Offer a hiring package including a signing bonus and a housing subsidy. San Francisco provides lateral officers a $5,000 hiring bonus.
  • Set aside 10% of redevelopment money towards public safety, creating a long-term, sustainable funding source for additional police operations.

These are all good plans, and I hope the Council moves forward with them. It would be nice to see more initiatives like this coming from the rest of our elected officials.

3 thoughts on “Oaklanders remain “crime obsessed”

  1. ThatOtherDude

    Something tells me that if this was written by Dellums, it would be rediculed and considered long overdue. But when the 12 year City Council President suggests them, they are praised as good and innovative ideas?

  2. Mark B

    We clearly aren’t represented in city hall. Really.

    Measure Y was approved by us and Dellums says we don’t want more cops? Victor Ochoa not realizing that the area surrounding MLK is a high crime area. Jane Brunner refusing to declare a state of emergency to put a halt on rising crime because she was more concerned about property values in her corner of Oakland than the lives of people in other corners of Oakland.

    I wish they would stop doing what they were doing and just work on the crime problem. It is a cancer, and it has to be eradicated.

    Oakland WILL NEVER be a model city if crime is ignored.