Got Safety FUD?

Got Safety FUD?  Do you feel a little fear, uncertainty and doubt about living safely in the hills?  These sentiments are often expressed by Montclarions who have experienced home break-ins, and are starting to be shared by their neighbors.

What we do know is there’s been a crime wave in the hills.  Since the perpetrators aren’t visible and ready to catch, our Oakland Police aren’t going to come running – there’s no threat to life and limb.  Let’s review a typical Montclair story, as reported through Montclair Safety’s Yahoo Board:

The police never responded to the call.  They got the first call right as the break in happened from the alarm company around 1:30 pm.  They got another call about 30 min. later from the alarm company.  I phoned them from the driveway 45 min later, when I discovered the shattered door, and did not want to go in alone.  I waited one hour, called again, then called my mom to come help me enter the home with a buddy.  At 7 pm, when the police still had not arrived, I phoned to cancel the 911 call.

Should you throw up your hands? That’s a typical reaction when your home has been burglarized and no police show up – whether your worldly possessions are intact or gone forever.  Still you should call in all hits, because keeping track of the activities enables police officers to connect the dots.

What if there are strangers around? This is so tricky, really.  One Monday-morning quarterback wondered if he should have called the police department when he saw suspicious folks, after learning they were likely perpetrators later that day.  It’s quite hard to know what to do.

Should you get armed? Well, you may exercise your Fourth Amendment rights and own a gun.  Keep in mind that most of our hills crimes happen when you aren’t at home.  Maybe an alarm, more crime-resistance door or dog would come in handy.

What’s apparent is that fears, uncertainties and doubts are rising lately.  These feelings are not only due to the crime wave but also the likely evisceration of the Oakland Police Department, to close our city’s budget gap.  While we won’t get 100% abandoned, more discussions about private security are starting to come up.

If you are concerned and curious, then pencil in the upcoming Montclair SIC Community Meeting:  June 3rd, from 7-9pm, at the Montclair Rec Center (map).  You’ll be able to hear from Area 1 Commander Captain Anthony Toribio and Beat 13Z Problem Solving Officer (PSO) Maureen Vergara.  Neighborhood Community Supervisor Jacque Long and Police Service Technician Eddie Smith will also be on hand.

At the very least, maybe some of your Safety FUD will dissipate.

More info:   KTVU Channel 2 aired a news report about the Montclair District’s crime wave – click here.

Violent Crime, Never Mind

Bring in the SWAT team and roving helicopter.  Shut down the street.  Yesterday in Montclair.

We learned that an armed man was spotted around Broadway Terrace, late yesterday afternoon.  The Oakland Police Department jumped on the lead, which ultimately turned into a false alarm.  Yet we shouldn’t mind the practice drill, not one bit.

On Montclair Safety’s Yahoo board, Natalie Henrich passed along the neighborhood scoop:

I just heard from a neighbor that all of the police activity that occurred today from 5-6 pm near Mountain and Broadway Terrace was for naught.  It turns out that it was a “kid” with a pretend gun.  I don’t know more than that, but I am relieved that it was not what everyone thought it to be.

Without knowing the full details, we’re still comforted by the Oakland Police’s response to this priority call.  Our area is best known for property rather than violent crimes, but you never know when there might be a threat to life and limb.

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.