Is Oakland a world-class destination city, worthy of attracting visitors and new residents from afar? Or is it the robbery capital of America, 2nd in overall violent crime–bested only by the failed city of Detroit? Can it be both?
Wednesday night my Friends of Art Murmur gallery visit was disrupted by an unfortunate and all too frequent incident. My friend’s car was broken into, window smashed and a few items stolen that had been stowed out of sight in the trunk. At least one other car on the block–ironically enough, owned by an Oakland Tribune crime reporter–also suffered the same fate.
As the reporter and I chatted about our own experiences with crime in Oakland, a spate of recent crimes came up (81-year-old woman in my neighborhood shot in her home during an attempted burglary in broad daylight, East Oakland woman losing two sons to gun violence within one week, etc.) and I got to thinking… how can our city ever be a world-class destination when crime is so persistent and rampant, when residents lack the basic assurance of safety?
Now I’m certainly no expert on this topic and I understand it has long-standing historical and complex roots, including: gross income disparities, failing public schools, high unemployment (as high as 45% in pockets of Oakland, despite the overall rate of just under 10%), distrust of police, under-staffed and under-funded police force (see chart at right), and the list goes on…
And I also understand that the city is attempting to take steps to address the issue, with new programs like Operation Ceasefire and the recent engagement of external consultants to produce three reports to improve public safety in Oakland. The third and final report is here for those who are interested: “Addressing Crime in Oakland, Zeroing Out Crime, A Strategy for Total Community Action” though it seems many were underwhelmed by this report and its lack of specificity.
It acknowledges that “Oakland currently is a community plagued by an unacceptable level of violent and non-violent crime. Perpetrators of the violence not only victimize individuals but create a sense of fear and disorder throughout the city.”
And it does affirm that police resources are lacking, but the overall message seems to be that we have many other resources at our disposal and if we can simply think more creatively, coordinate better, and get more citizens involved, that the situation will improve.
I know in my neighborhood of upper Dimond, neighbors are taking action through coordinated online communications regarding crime, and are considering the hiring of a private patrol service at a cost to be paid by residents. While this may help reduce burglaries and robberies in our neighborhood, I can’t help wondering why we should have pay for our own private security services, and how this might impact other neighborhoods that can’t afford to do so.
I don’t have any answers… but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
PS – I did get to see some art last night, but only half the show. Will post about that later…