OAKLAND -- The campaign to find a successor for the city's Measure Y has begun.
Discussions of the special tax that pays for a variety of projects that are designed to help curb violence in the city were held during a Saturday town hall meeting called by District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb at the Beebe Memorial Cathedral on Telegraph Avenue in the Temescal District.
The City Council must find a replacement for the tax, which was passed by voters in 2004, and expires at the end of the year. Homeowners pay $88 per year to fund the anti-violence efforts. The measure also authorized the city to hire an additional 63 police officers who help neighborhood residents with specific problems using community policing procedures. Along with hearing residents' concerns about crime, Kalb was seeking input from the public to help craft Measure Y's successor in an open manner.
"The last thing we want to do is go behind closed doors, draft something and then present it to you and say 'Support this,' " Kalb said.
The city hired a private consulting firm, RDA Associates, to evaluate the effectiveness of Measure Y and whether the Oakland Police Department was implementing the community policing plan.
The report concludes that the problem solving officers have helped eliminate some neighborhood problems though police personnel turnover through reassignments have been a problem, and the department needs to follow the data reporting procedures more closely to better define the extent of the problems and solutions. Patricia Bennett, CEO of RDA, said community policing is a philosophy that involves a partnership between the police and the people who live in the community.
One example, she said, involved a neighborhood plagued by burglaries. An officer concentrated on the problem by increasing police patrols, showing residents how to make their homes less accessible to burglars and helped neighbors get to know each other and report burglaries. The effort resulted in the arrest of individuals who had been involved in the thefts, Bennett said. Other efforts have been successful, she said.
"Since 2008, we are doing way better," she said. "Those CSO officers have really been modeling that (community policing)."
Sara Bedford, interim director of the Oakland Department of Social Services, outlined social programs paid for with Measure Y money and other funds.
The department oversees a variety of programs including working with the police department on domestic violence, serving at-risk youth who have been identified through a needs assessments and adult employment for recent prison parolees. A young man released from prison at age 20 has few options because the safety net of social services is designed for children and families, Bedford said.
"Young men at that age don't have a lot of resources and that's a safety issue," she said.
The department's efforts have had a positive impact in reducing truancy among youths and recidivism among adult offenders, Bedford said. The Oakland Police Department currently has 613 officers available and interim police Chief Sean Whent said the department would ideally like to raise that total to near 900.
Public safety remains a top priority of the City Council, Kalb said, but there is a consensus that the city will not strip other city departments to expand the force by whatever number is deemed appropriate.
"We are not going to close all our libraries to get to that number soon," he said. "We are not going to decrease funding for other departments to increase funding for the police."