OAKLAND -- Several residents of Oakland District 12, which includes the Temescal area and other parts of North Oakland, sat in a chilly classroom at Beebe Memorial Cathedral and told a meeting facilitator about the crime they experience, see and worry about in their neighborhoods.
They are victims of vandalism, car theft and bike theft. They see graffiti and homeless encampments. They worry about home robberies and purse snatching on the streets.
When it came to telling the facilitator about what they can do themselves to make a difference in the crime in their area, they also came up with several solutions. One resident said neighbors could get to know one another better and keep more eyes on the street. Another said she could warn others to stop being a target for auto theft by never leaving items in a car. Yet another said young people need to be involved in crime reduction.
"It's very important to bring in the young people using social media," said Lee Edwards, head of the Temescal Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council. "We don't do it. The police don't do it."
The meeting was one of several small breakout sessions held Saturday at a public safety town hall meeting organized by Mayor Jean Quan and the city of Oakland. It featured short talks from Quan, police Chief Howard Jordan, Councilman Dan Kalb and Joe DeVries, Neighborhood Services supervisor.
More than 150 residents from the northern and central parts of the city set aside three hours on that bright morning to learn more from an Oakland consultant on how to battle crime and to brainstorm ways they can help in the process.
Quan said there's not a day that goes by that she isn't talking with Jordan and other city staff about Oakland's crime problems. There has been progress, and crime is going down, she said. "It's been an interesting and amazing experience," she added.
Quan and Jordan also celebrated the addition of 38 new police officers to the force last week, adding that after three more academies graduate, the city will have 120 new officers.
"But it takes more than officers to keep a city safe," Quan said. "It takes that community partnership."
The meat of the introductory talks at the meeting was a speech given by Bob Wasserman, of Strategic Policy Partnership, a consulting group working on assessing the Oakland Police Department's operations and making recommendations for changes.
Wasserman said his task is to figure out what Oakland police need to do to reduce crime using methods that are sustainable over many years.
"We do this so that Oakland becomes known as a beautiful city where things are going on and it's known as a safe city," he said.
Oakland has several challenges. There's a lack of confidence in, and even a strong dislike of, the Oakland police. Oakland has a complex policing environment, an understaffed police force and a high volume of 911 calls. There is also widespread community fear about violent crime in the city.
Wasserman said not only do police have to own their beats and get to know the people who live in them, residents have to be part of the solution by taking ownership of their neighborhoods and taking steps to prevent and report crime.
The large group then separated into smaller groups to brainstorm ideas on what police could do to win the trust and support of the people of Oakland and what residents can do differently in response to crime.
Eric Davila recently moved from near Lake Merritt to the Longfellow neighborhood, which is below the Berkeley border and between Adeline Street to the west, Highway 24 to the east and Interstate 580 to the south.
"I am really interested to hear what these (Strategic Policy Partnership) consultants have to offer," he said. "I want to know what kind of strategies they have so they can do more with less, essentially."
Davila's wife, Amber Davila, noted there was a shooting in their neighborhood at noon on a Sunday a few weeks ago and Oakland often has a "Wild West" feeling.
"When it comes down to something like that happening, something needs to be done," she said.
Saturday's meeting was the third of four being held with Strategic Policy Partnership in the city. The consultants will gather all the information from residents at the meetings and provide a report to improve the city's safety in three to five months.
The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on April 27 at Cesar Chavez Educational Center, 2825 International Blvd.