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.

How Montclarions Respond To Burglaries

What a range of reactions to the recent uptick in burglaries!  From the online boards, coffee shops, and neighbors walking their dogs, here’s an unscientific recap.
Defend Yourself: Most of the hits happen when we’re not home, but folks seem to be scared because sometimes the robberies are at night too.  All kinds of ideas have been suggested, from baseball bats to firearms.
One interesting suggestion was to learn basic self-defense.  There’s a class for women starting tomorrow, at the Redwood Heights Recreation Center (map).  It costs $41 and will run on Saturdays, from 3-6pm, through November 8th.  Either show up or reach instructor Titus Taylor:, 510-238-2384.
Make Home Improvements: Update your locks, replace old garage door openers, and install alarms inside or outside your home.  Why bother?  At the recent community meeting with Oakland Police, Sandra Pohutsky took great notes and shared six things that Montclair break-ins have in common.

1. The burglars will leave if they hear an alarm after breaking in, so consider getting one of some type.
2.  Doors kicked in are often 1970’s doors which have become brittle with poor framing.  How strong is your door?
3.  Dead bolt locks in old doors may have been installed with small screws that are now loose.
4.  A sense of complacency may have resulted in using only the little door handle locks, leaving the dead bolt locks unused.
5.  Front doors may be hidden from street view; cut down bushes and trim trees.
6.  Inspect your house and beef up security.

Call The Cops: We are starting to help the Oakland Police track burglars more frequently now, said Montclair SIC’s Nick Vigilante, by calling and reporting suspicious people.  Problem Solving Officer (PSO) Maureen Vergara, who covers Beat 13Z, asked for these details if possible:

1.  license plate information – number and state
2.  vehicle descriptions – make, model, color, and year
3.  suspect descriptions – gender, race, as much as possible

Quit Oakland: Some people want to give up and join Piedmont and/or declare independence from Oakland.  This was quickly pushed away as irrelevant or untenable by some, who have looked into the possibility before.  Others are still hopeful.