OAKLAND -- North Oakland residents, worried about recent violence in their neighborhoods, got some direct advice from Oakland police: Keep your eyes open and get a hold of authorities when crime breaks out.

"We want you to go and enjoy your neighborhood. Overall, this is a relatively safe part of the city, to be honest," said Deputy Chief Anthony Rachal to a mother who asked if it was safe to take her children to an area park.

"Crime can happen anywhere," he said. "We say, 'Be vigilant but not paranoid.' We are not preaching paranoid."

The May 6 emergency public safety meeting was organized by Councilman Dan Kalb, who represents District 1. Residents from four neighborhoods, Bushrod, Gaskill, Golden Gate and Santa Fe, gathered to hear updates on police investigations into recent shootings and discuss ways to prevent more crime

The last week of April was a pretty harrowing period for the residents. Recent incidents have included:

  • A home-invasion robbery the night of April 22 in the 600 block of 66th Street near Shattuck Avenue. The residents were held at gunpoint while the suspects stole electronics. The family was frightened but unhurt.

  • A fatal shooting two nights later in the 600 block of 54th Street near Shattuck. The victim, 21-year-old Donita Henderson, was shot and killed in her car in front of her 4-year-old son. The boy was unhurt.

  • Another fatal shooting on April 26 in front of 707 53rd Street. Ceejay Reed, 19, died from his wounds and two other victims, a 19-year-old man and a 21-year old woman, survived but with serious injuries.


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    Capt. Sharon Williams, who oversees deployment of officers into North Oakland crime areas, offered some brief insights into the shootings. In at least two cases, the victims were targeted by their assailants and the shootings were not indicative of conditions in the area, she said.

    One possible solution is being sought by Healthy Communities, a nonprofit that has organized violence prevention teams to head off confrontations by talking to people on the street and offering job training, therapy and other services. Akil Truso, who walks in high-crime areas on weekends, said his team tries to stop trouble before it starts by helping to resolve disputes before they turn violent.

    "We try to bring them together and try to get down to the bottom of the problem," he said. "A lot of the stuff we are dealing with is real petty. A lot of the stuff we deal with is 'he stepped on my shoes' or 'he looked at my girlfriend.' "

    One resident suggested providing the public with addresses of known felons so neighbors will know to avoid them. Kalb said he was not certain if that information was a matter of public record and would have to consult with the Oakland City Attorney's Office.

    Rachal added that the information is only good if it is current and parole authorities must rely on information from the parolees themselves to determine where they are living. Police and some community volunteers urged the audience to get involved with their Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils, which meet to discuss neighborhood problems and pass the information on to police.

    Reporting incidents, including the time and location of ongoing crime problems, is important, Williams said, because the information is used to deploy special teams of officers to combat crimes where they are occurring on a regular basis. Police officials were circumspect about at least one incident in which residents heard shots fired repeatedly in a local park. It turned out to be a test of an automated ShotSpotter system the department uses to pinpoint shooting incidents.

    Despite sending out emails explaining that the explosions were nothing to be concerned about, some residents did not get the warnings because they don't receive email. Rachal promised to take a more traditional approach to warning the public about ShotSpotter tests.

    "There is something to be said about knocking on a door or hanging a flier on a street sign," he said.