OAKLAND -- The effort to establish a private patrol area in the Dimond District kicked into high gear in response to this past week's home invasion incident in the neighborhood, in which an 81-year-old woman was shot and injured on Laguna Avenue.
Resident John Delaney has been working on the idea of forming a private patrol area since this past October, when he attended a meeting on the subject held at the Dimond library, organized by the 22x Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council.
"The (Jan. 28) incident has certainly given us momentum," said Delaney, who began knocking on doors this past week to connect with his neighbors. Delaney said that he discovered that mass emails were not the most effective way to communicate with his neighbors, and plans several more Saturdays of knocking on doors.
"I think crime is pretty bad," said Delaney, who moved to Oakland three years ago from Huntington Beach. "It's the only place I've ever lived where there can be five robberies, in a three-block radius, in two weeks. I've called in random gunshots. It's a lot. It's a startling experience when you are not used to them. There is a level set problem with people, OPD included. The crime level may be OK for Oakland, but not acceptable."
The group's proposed patrol area includes Coolidge, Rhoda and Laguna avenues and Lincoln Avenue from MacArthur Boulevard to the Mormon Temple.
Delaney's home is already covered by a neighboring private patrol area with Wisconsin Avenue as its epicenter.
"My initial objective is to have everything from Lincoln Avenue to 35th Avenue above Highway 580 to be under patrol," Delaney said. "Neighborhood watch groups are very spotty. Some are great and some very passive. Some neighborhoods are holding emergency preparedness exercises and others don't even know there is a neighborhood watch. They haven't been consistent enough, or action oriented enough."
Buzz Brown also lives in the neighborhood.
"Crime is taking a life of its own," he said.
Brown will pay for a private patrol, but he's not happy about it. Brown already has three dogs to protect his property and an alarm system. Now, with a private patrol it will add up to an extra $200 a month, he said.
Private patrols have mushroomed all over the city at a rapid rate. Rates run begin at $30 a month per household, depending on the number of residents and the types of services provided.
When one adds this to the cost of burglar alarms and the maintenance of guard dogs, Brown estimated that his neighborhood will spend $1.2 million a year.
"I think private patrol is a good first step. Bay Alarm is making a ton of money," Brown said. But Brown would like to see a more systematic citywide approach to solving the persistent security issues.
"There are 51 positions open for law enforcement officers. Why can't we get 51 officers to transfer?" he said. "It really comes back to the City Council and mayor's office need to be responsible for policing of our city."
Brown said he wondered whether city officials are more worried about individual's rights than protecting citizens.
"Oakland looks like a war zone. All people passing through see is poverty along the 580 corridor," Brown said. "Fill the potholes, pick up the trash.
"It's our town; not mine, not yours, not Jean Quan's," he continued. "We should have better respect for our town."
"This is a big community problem, an Oakland-wide problem," he said. "There are a few objections, but we need to go after the problem and grab hold of something we can get our hands on and make a difference. We can't fix the whole city. I understand the concerns, but if we get our 100 people, we are going to do it."