Okay Everyone, Time For Surveillance Cameras

Montclarions have been contemplating measures to help deter potential burglars and catch perps for a while.  Under the auspices of the Montclair Safety and Improvement Council (MSIC), neighbors recently decided that surveillance cameras might do the trick.  And ABC7 News (KGO) ventured into the hills to ask about our plans.

It’s simple:  purchase several surveillance cameras and install them around your property.

With many home invasions lately, why not try something?  After all, Oakland police are focused on their downtown efforts and generally drive up here for in-progress, life-and-limb crimes.  With under 650 cops for the whole city, they aren’t able to patrol in the hills or visit homes that have been hit.

On Saturday morning, there’s an opportunity to figure out how to install and use these specialized cameras.  The Montclair SIC group has organized a meet-up at Montclair Elementary School (map), starting at 10am.  Right in the parking lot,  Logitech camera reps and Oakland police are scheduled to discuss how this program can work for Montclair.

Whether you are ready to install cameras or not, all curiosity seekers are invited to learn more tomorrow.  For those ready to give it a try, you can sign up for cameras and even arrange a house-visit to connect cameras to your home computer.  According to Montclair SIC reps, “we have over 100 participants registered for this program, which is phenomenal for a new community-based program.”

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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.

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.

Montclair Safety’s Changing Of Guards

The Montclair Safety & Improvement Council (MSIC) was created in 2003, and has been working on quality-of-life issues ever since.  Now the founding steering committee heads plan to step down, so there will be an elected “changing of the guards” ahead.

MSIC is an all-volunteer group representing the Montclair core, which means the Village and areas south of Thornhill.  Like many Oakland neighborhood groups, they focus on crime prevention, traffic safety, beautification and emergency preparedness – but these guys do it with enthusiasm!

Montclair SIC Logo

What’s special about this Council is the level of communications occurring among its leaders, Beat 13Z cops and first responders, village merchants, elected power-that-be, city administrators and plain ‘ole Montclarions.  The Yahoo! message board is very heavily used as well, and lights up anytime there’s something cooking out there.

We have watched how locals can share something suspicious – like a person or car that’s been casing a street or two – and how that ultimately helps.  While the subject matter is mostly about problems or potential problems, at least there’s a way for Beat 13Z folks to share quickly.

In essence, the Montclair SIC acts much like an activist watchdog group for Montclair’s core.  Chairman Nick Vigilante and Vice Chair Jill Broadhurst should be applauded for their sheer stamina and commitment alone.  And it’s now time for the next generation of leaders to step up and influence the quality-of-life around here.

If you can devote sufficient time and energy, then please throw your hat in the ring for one of the MSIC leadership positions.  Below is a copy of Chairman Nick’s email which encourages neighbors to run for the MSIC steering committee – give it some consideration.

Hello Everyone,

The Montclair Safety and Improvement Council (MSIC) will be sending out an official email to let you know all the details about the elections.

As many of you know, I and several others helped form the MSIC in 2003, with help from Council Member Jean Quan’s Office.  MSIC thanks Council Member Quan and Sue Piper for their fantastic support through the years.

The MSIC Steering Committee tries really hard to help the Montclair community, and you as the members of the Montclair community play a big part in it.  I thank all of you for the great work you do for your neighborhoods, and for Montclair.  You make Montclair a better and safer home for us all.

Myself-Chair, and Jill Broadhurst-Vice Chair, have been with MSIC since day-one.  I have decided not to seek re-election as Chair.  Jill has decided not to seek re-election as Vice Chair.  This is not due to any internal problems or controversies.  Both Jill and I will continue with MSIC, but in other capacities.  I will continue with crime prevention, and help Doug Mosher with the great work he is doing with the MONS Groups.  Jill will continue with beautification and the great work she does with that group in Montclair.

There are lots of you out there (Other MSIC Steering Commitee Officers and Reps, MONS, CORE, Watch Group Leaders, etc.) who have great potential to contribute on a broader level for Montclair.  I ask you to consider the possibility of an Officer position on the MSIC Steering Committee – Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary.  There are other Representational positions on the MSIC Steering Committee as well, which may come open.

MSIC will soon publicize a public meeting in November; one which is a regular public meeting.  At this public meeting, there will be a interesting topic of interest to all of you.  I’ll keep that a secret right now!  The MSIC Steering Committee election process will also take place at the November meeting, but that is not the reason for the meeting.  MSIC is required to hold elections every year.

An official notification will follow from MSIC, as I mentioned above.

My email is intended to give everyone an advance opportunity to explore the idea of serving on the MSIC Steering Committee, which for me has been a great learning experience and opportunity to serve you.  Thank you,

Nick Vigilante