Crime Stats Reveal Leap In Burglaries

When you dig into the Montclair crime statistics, there’s a real story around here.  In the Montclair core, burglaries increased nearly three-fold during the past month:  from five to 14 hits.

As a public service, below are Oakland Police Department crimes reported over the past 60 days.  We divided the relevant stats into two 30-day chunks, to see what’s changed or not changed.

When you look at the entire 94611 zip code, overall reported crimes dropped slightly.  The northern Montclair (13Y beat) dropped a bit, with fewer burglaries but increased thefts.

The Montclair core (13Z beat) was hardest hit by burglaries, while the area’s overall crime count remained steady.  Our village also experienced an obvious spate of vandalism earlier this year, only slightly visible in the reported stats.

One last observation:  we have noticed that traffic tends to drop when reporting crimes stats and subjects.  With the burglary news, we hope you were able to swallow this dose of cod-liver oil.

When Three Cops Hang Out

Not much of a headline here, but there was something very comforting about seeing three local cops hanging out at our coffee place last night.  Yet they weren’t chilling with their dinner salads.

Instead this trio was deep in discussion, much like any work colleagues getting together.  While I wanted to overhear them, I failed miserably in my attempts to play undercover agent.

Every so often, a word or two floated over to my side of the coffee shop.  My sense is these police were chatting about subjects like performance tracking.  They were definitely in lean-forward mode – and trying to figure out how to get some stuff done.

I admit to feeling a little glow of security, with all the officers nearby.  On reflection, I also felt empathy for what they needed to accomplish.  How can any cops really be effective with the continued, steady beat of crimes around here?

On that note, some Montclarions are having a rough time lately.  There’s a new wave of car windows broken, things stolen from cars and even stolen cars.  One neighbor mentioned running after someone who was aiming to steal more the other night, but the potential perp sprinted away.

It’s a big deal when you have been violated, regardless of the overall stats and response rates.  There’s not much you can do without garages to hide your cars.  While we assume all this activity has already been reported to the police, it dampens the spirits far more than the rains.

Still there’s no question that our cops seemed to care, as I watched them huddle last night.

Pay For Additional Private Patrols

As you know, burglaries are one the more common crimes around the Oakland Hills and they tend to occur in neighborhood waves.  Typically an unknown car is seen, some guys (at least so far) are walking around and visiting neighbors, and ultimately homes are hit.

“Casing vehicles and persons are a daily occurrence in Oakland,” said John Sebastian, who runs Safety Dynamics.  “The only effective viable solution is to flood the area with marked patrol cars on a regular basis so that anyone casing will just go somewhere else.  It is impossible to stop criminal activity altogether…you can only hope to push it out of your area.”

Crown Victoria

What Oakland Cops Do: Our city police are assigned to cover the “beat 13” areas of Rockridge and Montclair, and they patrol areas around our neighborhoods.  Besides paying attention to what’s been formally reported by residents, officers serving Montclair also receive a list of monthly priorities from the Montclair Safety Council.

We are trained to call and let the Oakland Police know about suspicious-looking activity.  There are different levels of alerts, and spotting unfamiliar folks isn’t exactly an emergency because there’s no actual crime underway.  Still this has played out pretty consistently, and the descriptions help cops ultimately nab burglars.

What Private Patrols Do: Some residents are looking for additional reinforcement, and they hire private patrols for more security and protection.  These services can fill in the gaps because they patrol 24×7, and can respond to homes or businesses within five minutes.  They still respect and work with the cops, who are alerted first by alarms – but act as backup for their clients.

Private patrols can bolster the safety of entire blocks, too.  In the Estates neighborhood, the local watch group recently confirmed that a black Chevy Suburban had been spotted in the area and later served as “getaway car” from a home burglary.  They shared this beta with private patrollers, as well as city police.

Demand Is Steady: “Crimes in this area are a serious problem in our view,” explained John Sebastian.  “I do not think that any where else in America would the frequency of armed robberies, auto thefts and home burglaries be tolerated.”

Sebastian’s been running a local private alarm and patrol service for 17 years in the Oakland Hills, primarily covering the 94618, 94705 and 94611 zips.  My guess is that business is pretty good for Sebastian and his competitors.  It makes sense to have a third eye out there, if you can afford to protect yourself.

We continue to rely on the Oakland Police, who have stepped up their responsiveness.  But constant coverage of your own home or business is ideal, and that won’t happen anytime soon from the public dole.

Montclair Crimes Declined Slightly Last Month

Montclair’s crime rates have declined a bit this past month, from 51 to 39 incidents overall.  The rates dropped significantly in the 13Y police beat (north of Thornhill) but held relatively steady in the 13Z beat (south of Thornill).  Throughout the 94611 zip, there have been fewer burglaries, robberies and assaults too.

In the northern part of Montclair, there were just 12 incidents this past month.  Maybe our burglars and thieves decided to take a holiday break, as their hits dropped from 20 to nine (!) during the past 31 days.  Although the numbers bounce around monthly, this was still a quieter period.

94611 Crimes

In the Montclair shopping district and southern reaches, some 27 incidents took place over the past month.  Burglaries continued to decline, while thefts and vehicle thefts increased noticeably.  There were recent reports of burglars casing places near Skyline Blvd, so neighbors continue to keep watch.

Right now, the Montclair Safety Council is asking for safety priorities to share with the OPD 13Z beat officers.  Please email MSIC Chair Nick Vigilante ( about problems in your neighborhoods, which can be better patrolled or addressed this month.

More info:   If you’re curious about your own neck of the woods, then take a look at crime data available through the CrimeView system.  You can select crimes, define dates, and enter your address/distance there – give it a try.

Montclair Mirror: Your Searches Tell All

Today we would like to share what’s interesting to Montclarions, as reflected by the most popular searches conducted to find Today in Montclair and postings clicked once here.  In case you are worried, nothing traces back to individuals at all.

Let’s start with what you searched throughout 2008.  Bar none, the Hans Reiser case was the most sordid and popular news of the year.  Beyond that infamous murder case, our most prevalent concerns related to local fires, burglaries, voting, home values, and a little shopping.

Reiser On 48 Hours

All Things Reiser: Our famous murder case featured computer expert Hans Reiser, who killed and buried his wife in the hills.  We were aghast at the court proceedings, Nina’s recovery and their poor kids.  CBS-TV even aired a special 48 Hours program last night, where Hans reflected on his crime:

I felt that I was trying to keep my children safe….I feel very sad.  Sometimes, sometimes keeping children safe doesn’t lead to happiness.  In the law, there’s a difference between killing and murder.  I think that Rory deserved to be safe, which is different from thinking that Nina deserved to die.  I don’t think that people who hurt children or threaten to hurt children should die, but I think that children should be safe.  And I’m very sorry that Nina died.

Fires: There’s ongoing interest in local fires, long after the flames have been snuffed out.  As everyone knows, there were two main events this past year, namely the pre-season Hiller flare-up below homes and above Rt 24; and the late-season Tilden blaze mistakenly set during controlled burning.

Crimes: Of course, all the local crimes deserved our attention and there were some creative efforts like the restaurant stick-ups.  More recently, there have been perpetrators casing the hills and later breaking in.  While we have apprehended some burglars, there’s ongoing interest in how to protect our hearths.

Voting: This civic discourse was heartening, at national and local levels.  We wanted to attend an Obama rally, know exactly where to vote, and find out election results.  The interest in village leaders, local reps, and measures like OO and  WW was strong as well.

Home Values: The top searches related to median prices which recently held steady, as well as foreclosures and their movements.  Many villagers have lived here a long time, before cheap credit appeared.  As the market contracts and job losses mount, we’re holding our breath for the bad news ahead.

Pizza, Pizza: The sad truth is that Montclarions searched for pizza places more than anything else, except the Reiser murder.  Do you recall The Net (1995) with Sandra Bullock, when she ordered pizza online?  It’s nothing today to check menus or reviews online, though we still place orders by phone.  Searches for other edibles paled by comparison.

More Goods: Yes, the web has become our new yellow pages.  The searches for clothing, gifts and kids stuff remained steady all year.  Of course the search volumes spiked over the holidays, including decorations, village events and giving back to others.

So there you have it, a Montclair mirror held up to our collective souls.  We care about larger issues in our community, staying safe at home, and maybe trying to save a little time.  Just a microcosm of Hills life, I suppose.

Crimes Abate This Month

Based on the online stats available from the Oakland Police Department, the number of crimes has definitely been reduced in our neighborhood.

There were 25% fewer crimes than last month in the 94611 zip alone.  The northern reaches of Montclair (Beat 13Y) saw nearly a 66% reduction in crimes, due in part to the burglars who were finally caught.

Crime Last Month

While we continue to get smarter about locking up and generally protecting ourselves, there will be a Community celebration of sorts this Thursday evening, at the Montera Middle School Auditorium (map).

Sponsored by the Montclair Safety and Improvement Council and the Piedmont Pines Neighborhood Association, all are welcomed at 6:30 pm for quick mixer and formal program from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Nick Vigilante, Montclair SIC co-chair, says “this will be a great opportunity for you to learn about what has occurred regarding the Montclair burglaries, meet many of the Police Officers assigned to Montclair, and say thank you to the Police Officers who have played a significant role in the burglary investigations and apprehensions.”

All our local cops will attend the meeting:

  • Senior Brass: Captain Anthony Toribio, Area Commander, who runs police operations for 1/3 of Oakland; Sgt. Oliver Cunningham, Lead Burglary Investigator; and Sgt. Bernard Ortiz, Problem Solving Unit Supervisor
  • Beat Officers: Montclair (Beat 13Z) Problem Solving Officer Maureen Vergara; Thornhill/North Oakland (Beat 13Y) Problem Solving Officer Mark Contreras; and Upper Estates/Rockridge (Beat 13X) Problem Solving Officer Randal Chew
  • Other Officers: Pat Gerrans; John Cunnie; and Mike Munoz

This is a convenient way to meet everyone, all in one place.  Of course, there will also be “business to conduct,” so come prepared with any questions you have while the officers are here in force.

What Oakland Cops Can Do

The recent spate of highly professional burglaries have awakened Montclarions from their comfort zones, to say the least.  Meanwhile Oakland cops are paying more attention lately too, but haven’t arrested the perps yet.

There was a special meeting at City Hall earlier this week, among community leaders and top city cops including Deputy Chief Jeff Israel,  Captain Anthony Toribio, and Sergeant Oliver Cunningham.  Topic A was Montclair’s crime wave, as seen in this three-month mapping of all area crimes.

Montclair Crime Response:

At City Hall, we definitely learned more about the cops, suspects and wheels of justice.  Montclarion Sandra Pohutsky attended the meeting and took copious notes.  Here are some interesting tidbits:

  • Our beat cops who cover the Oakland Hills (13X, 13Y, 13Z) were described as “very sharp, well organized, high-caliber officers.”  PSO Maureen Vergara, who covers core Montclair (13Z) was called “awesome.”
  • Sgt. Cunningham investigates burglaries and has data showing 70 residential burglaries in the last two and half months in the Oakland Hills.
  • In Montclair, there are four burglar teams that mostly show up during the day.  They drive different cars to avoid detection by us.  The teams include two white males, two black males in late 30s, two Asian males in early 30s and some younger black males.
  • “Burglary is now an enterprise” and the courts are less lenient then in prior years.  Loot get sold online, at pawnshops, flea markets, and “fences” who are people who sell stolen goods.
  • The District Attorney can pursue cases when there’s solid and real data.  Apparently burglars get 10 years if they are repeat offenders.

The cops move slowly through their investigations, but some of this pace is out of their control.  Sgt. Cunningham, who oversees all the burglaries, receives reports within 24-48 hours.  Fingerprinting and DNA evidence can be taken quickly too – and then it takes up to three months to get back fingerprinting and up to ten months for DNA results!

More Funds For Cops:

Although 65% of Oakland’s budget is allocated for cops plus firefighters, it’s not enough for the cops to do their work.  That’s part of the motivation for Measure NN, which would increase the police count and also hire technicians who handle paperwork.

With the recent Oakland budget cuts, our City Rep Jean Quan is strongly advocating for its passage.  So is Mayor Ron Dellums, who sponsored the measure and just attended a Castlemont town-hall meeting to encourage support from citizens.

There are mixed reactions to the measure, due to prior cop funding and how the city handles its finances.  In a survey conducted last summer, some 60% of Oaklanders support this ballot measure.  We’ll see what happens on Election Day.