OAKLAND -- Neighbors from the Lincoln Heights, Dimond, Oakmore, Woodminster and Montera neighborhoods, comprising police beat 22X, met at the Greek Orthodox Church on Feb. 13 to discuss forming private patrols in response to the rise in violent crime in their neighborhoods.
Residents shifted into high gear after the Jan. 28 home-invasion robbery on Laguna Avenue that resulted in the shooting that injured an 81-year-old woman. Four male suspects, including two 16-year-olds, have been arrested in the crime.
"We really depend on you to be our eyes and ears," said police Area Three Capt. Ricardo Orozco, who said it was a resident's video footage that helped police apprehend the four suspects in the home invasion on Laguna Street.
On Feb. 13, a private security guard shot and wounded a suspected burglar in the Oakmore District, police said. The security guard was patrolling the neighborhood around noon when a home burglary in the 4000 block of Harding Way was interrupted, according to police.
The neighborhood has had an outpouring of support for the private security officer. The guard had a strong relationship with the community, Orozco said.
"It was heartwarming to see the community response," Orozco said.
Orozco confirmed that the private security officer had a license to carry the gun and said he has the same rights as any other citizen. But some residents were concerned about what occurred on Harding Way.
"I'm horrified at the willingness to shoot people over property," Martha Deacon said. "If you have a gun and the other guy doesn't, you don't fire. You keep them 10 feet away. End of story."
"Individuals do not deserve to die for burglary," Joel Tena said. "We are not living in Texas. We are putting our lives in the hands of a private company.
"What kind of training do private patrols have?" Tena asked. "Highly trained (police) officers make mistakes."
District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf said, "It is dangerous to think that private patrols are replacing police."
Schaaf encouraged residents to think of "private patrols as an extra set of eyes and ears on the street."
Despite city officials' claims that crime is down, many do not feel safe. While burglaries and robberies are down from the same period last year, home invasions have increased, according to statistics provided by Hoang Banh, Oakland Police Department's Neighborhood Services coordinator.
While the department struggles to fill its ranks, many neighbors said they feel vulnerable to crime, and there has been an increase in private patrols throughout the city. Lincoln Heights resident John Delaney is in the process of forming a neighborhood association. He is hoping that his neighborhood can hire a private patrol to supplement the neighborhood watch in the Upper Dimond and Lincoln Heights.
Residents agree that the patrol should be unarmed.
But some residents are opposed to the effort. Tena questioned whether the increase of private patrols will affect passage of a public safety tax to safeguard existing police services as well as the addition of officers.
"People are creating their own private Idaho," Tena said. "If you are just thinking about your own neighborhood, this is where the division between the haves and the have-nots will occur.
"I'm concerned about spending time and energy to hire private patrols," Tena said. "People should be thinking about what's going on with OPD. People need to get involved with OPD. Let's be progressive and proactive. We need to demand the reprioritizing of our police department."