OAKLAND -- Residents, merchants and shoppers in the Piedmont Avenue, Rockridge, Grand Lake, Temescal and Lakeshore neighborhoods received the news this week that Oakland police will step up their presence in those neighborhoods.
The police department's announcement was good news in the wake of various parking lot vehicle break-ins, robberies, an armed mugging and store break-ins.
In a news release, the Oakland Police Department said it would use a variety of enforcement techniques in which officers will focus on intervention, prevention and enforcement. Police will also continue partnering with BART, the California Highway Patrol, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, the state Department of Justice and community members to reduce crime, according to the release.
"We really need this," said Pamela Drake, director of the Lakeshore Improvement District. "The crime isn't particularly worse than before, it's just more recent. It's one of those things that comes and goes."
Drake said the additional police coverage will make people feel more comfortable about being out and about. Noella Teele, co-owner of the Issues magazines store on Glen Avenue and a member of the Piedmont Avenue Merchants Association, appreciates the coverage but thinks the area could do well to have a walking officer year-round.
"I live here and have been a merchant here a number of years," she said. "It's great that this is happening for the holidays, but it's something to take a look at throughout winter and beyond. I know there are monetary concerns that can hinder that, but if we can figure out how to do this a few weeks a year we may as well figure out how to do the same throughout the year."
Teele said walking officers would make a big difference in planning preventive efforts rather than dealing with problems crisis by crisis.
"They get familiar with the neighborhood and the people and can track problems and see trends to come up with solutions," she said.
Resident Ken Katz said while Lakeshore Avenue has private security seven days a week funded by the business improvement district, he is still happy about the increased police assistance and that they have heard the message from neighborhoods about crime problems.
Ronile Lahti, a member of the Piedmont Avenue Merchants Association, said while there is a current increase in crime in that area, and she is pleased about the increased police surveillance, she doesn't think it is a high-crime district.
"From what I've been hearing there has been of problem of people picking on folks who are not paying attention," she said. "I tell people all the time not to talk on the phone while they walk down the street. People can come by so quick and grab them."
Hoang Banh, a neighborhood services coordinator for the police department's Neighborhood Services Division, advises citizens to go to www.oakland.net/merchantwatch, a resource for crime prevention information for business districts.