Montclarions Hear From Captain Toribio

Oakland Police Captain Anthony Toribio gets high marks for candor, after addressing a full house at the Montclair Safety & Improvement Council’s (MSIC) community meeting last night.  It’s gotta be tough to try doing more…with less.

Responsiveness In the Hills

On the topic of police responsiveness, Captain Toribio agreed that sometimes police don’t come when called in the hills.  “We have officers assigned to 13, but may call them down to the flatlands” to deal with life-and-limb priorities.

However the problem solving officers (PSOs) do review all beat crimes and, after two years, Officer Maureen Vergara keeps a tight watch on 13Z with help from Montclarions.  She described the current investigations underway, during this gathering.

When asked about private security, the Captain felt it might be useful.  In fact, downtown ambassadors serve as “eyes and ears” for the police today.  Yet he and other safety speakers focused on how neighbors could help in this regard too – by noticing anything suspicious or amiss and reporting it.

Police Cuts Ahead

The City of Oakland currently has a budget deficit pegged at $31.5 million, and this 2009-2010 gap must be closed in June.  With 85 percent of the general fund directed to police and fire departments, things don’t look good for the status quo.

Our police department is already getting prepared for new cost-saving schedules.  While standard patrols do matter, the priority will be responding to 911 calls related to violent crimes.  Captain Toribio foresees changes where police are scheduled for eight hour shifts, five days a week; right now, they work longer shifts three or four days a week.

Toribio didn’t know exactly what would happen next because the police union agents need to meet with the City and “paying into the pension systems is a component.”  According to Sue Piper, from Council Rep Jean Quan’s office, some $12 million is spent annually on the pensions.  After those negotiations play out, cuts to the police force could be inevitable.

None of this bodes well for city safety.  Although violent crimes have decreased, that might change.  And the property crimes we’re experiencing, including auto and home burglaries, are on a upward swing lately.  This community meeting provided a wake-up call:  batten down the safety hatches in Montclair.