Sue Graham was gardening in her front yard on Amy Drive in the afternoon this week when someone opened her car door and stole her prescription sunglasses. That’s the fifth time she’s been burglarized in 20 years living in Rockridge.
Like many of the 30 people who attended The Greater Rockridge National Crime Prevention Council [NCPC] meeting Thursday night at the Rockridge Library, Graham is fed up with robberies and a lack of police presence in the neighborhood. “Why are we not protected?” she asked City Attorney Barbara Parker, who spoke at the meeting.
“There are real taxpayers who are in this room,” Graham added. “What is Oakland going to do?”
The Greater Rockridge NCPC is a volunteer neighborhood council that meets monthly to discuss crime in the area. An Oakland police officer regularly attends, and pamphlets with crime prevention tips, and instructions on how to describe a suspect to police, are available at a table staffed by volunteers.
Parker, who was named acting city attorney in June and then appointed to finish off the current term of the position by the Oakland City Council in July, was invited to attend Thursday night’s meeting, and she answered questions from a mostly middle-aged and retired group of residents for about 40 minutes.
While the topics ranged from curfews, gang injunctions, blight, problem liquor stores, prostitution, code enforcement, police redistricting and robberies, the focus was the same: public safety, and the feeling of many Rockridge residents that they have been left on their own while a reduced and overworked police force has to focus its resources on battling violent crime. Parker said she understood residents’ concerns. “Without addressing public safety so people feel safe, the city can’t rise to the level of greatness that it needs,” Parker said.
Many of the residents’ questions had to with robberies in the neighborhood, and a lack of police presence, or adequate response time when a robbery is reported. “The criminals know this is almost like an open city,” one resident said. “Police don’t even arrive for four or five hours, and then they tell you, ‘Well, it’s not a high priority.’”
Oakland Police Problem Solving Officer Trent Thompson told residents at the meeting that many burglaries in the neighborhood could be prevented if people simply locked their doors and windows when they’re out, or purchase an alarm for their home and car.
But Thompson said that while the number of burglaries in the neighborhood are “alarming,” he also said that he couldn’t stop them. Because of cutbacks and layoffs, the police force is stretched thin, and Thompson said he spends most of his time in West Oakland, where there’s more crime. “That’s why we need a good neighborhood watch,” he said. He also encouraged residents to e-mail him if they are robbed, providing his e-mail address: email@example.com.
Graham said Thompson has been to her house before in response to a robbery, and added that when she was in danger in her home because someone was in her yard wielding a knife, the police were there right away.
Still, she said, as Oakland taxpayers, Rockridge residents deserve a level of safety they’re not getting. “We deserve some level of response,” Graham said. “My concerns are that this continues, and we feel hopeless. I think, like many residents, we’re on our own up here.”
Go here for more information on The Greater Rockridge National Crime Prevention Council.
The story has changed to reflect that Trent Thompson is an Oakland Police Problem Solving Officer, and Barbara Parker was appointed to finish off the current term of the city attorney by the Oakland City Council in July.