Residents pack open forum to discuss crime surge in the Temescal area

Residents of Temescal and surrounding neighborhoods met at Homeroom on Monday night to discuss a recent surge of criminal activity in the area.

Residents of Temescal and surrounding neighborhoods met at Homeroom on Monday night to discuss a recent surge of criminal activity in the area.

An open forum Monday night at Homeroom in North Oakland drew nearly a hundred concerned residents who packed into the restaurant and onto the surrounding sidewalks to discuss the Temescal area’s recent surge in crime.

Many in the crowd said they had been victims of attempted or successful muggings, armed robberies, break-ins, thefts and assaults, and gathered in small groups to discuss tactics to help make their community more secure.  Merchants in the Temescal area faced a rash of robberies and break-ins last summer, and electronics thefts, particularly of smartphones, are also on the rise. Over the last weekend, a taxi cab driver was stabbed outside of the nearby MacArthur BART Station.

The meeting, which was hosted by concerned neighbors, attracted nearby residents, representatives from the Oakland Police Department, local merchants and members of various neighborhood watch groups.

“Our intention for the meeting is to create an open and caring environment to express our opinions,” said Temescal resident Jessie Wayburn, who lives in an apartment complex down the street from Homeroom and helped to organize the gathering. Wayburn contacted the restaurant about hosting the meeting after her apartment complex was broken into by armed thieves in mid-December. “I emailed Homeroom because guys came into my apartment building with guns and I said, ‘I’m sick of it,’” Wayburn said.

Sara Erickson, who lives near 49th and Manila, helped found Temescrawlers, a neighborhood watch group that meets Wednesday evenings at 9 pm to walk throughout the area and discuss community crime prevention. “This is a sign of how it’s personally affecting everybody,” Erickson said, gesturing to the full house. “People care, but what can we do that’s effective? What’s more helpful is meeting neighbors and talking about crime and other lines of communication.”

There have been recent muggings in broad daylight on the sidewalks right in front of Homeroom, she said, which is located on a well-traveled commercial strip on 40th Street. “There was no shame in their game,” she said of the muggers.

Lee Edwards, who heads the Temescal Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), said crime in the Temescal district has increased more than 100 percent within the last three years, in part because of the city’s inability to staff more police officers. “We used to have officers walking up Telegraph,” Edwards said. “We’re in a unique location. 40th Street is on the edge of a [police] beat. In effect, it should get double the patrolling.”

But budget cuts have made extra police presence in the area a near impossibility. There are only 616 Oakland police officers currently employed throughout the city, compared to 837 in 2008. Only four officers patrol from 25th Street to the Berkeley border, said Oakland Police Department Sgt. Fred Shavies, who spoke at the meeting. Robberies are frequent above 40th Street and there are a “crazy amount of robberies” between 38th and 40th Streets, he said. “I could go on and on about needing more police officers, but that’s not going to solve anything,” Shavies said. “A lot of it is budgeting issues.” Instead, he encouraged concerned residents to reach out to members of the city council and to report suspicious activity to the OPD’s non-emergency number—(510) 777-3333—and emergency line—(510) 777-3211—if needed.

The group also discussed the importance of maintaining open dialogue with neighbors, including keeping running lists of cell phone contacts and email and street addresses of residents. Being aware of neighbors’ daily routines—like if they tend to keep doors and windows open—also helps to keep a block aware of suspicious activity, attendees said. “We want to build a community that looks each other in the eyes as they pass each other on the street and makes small talk; to make a community that feels like they’ve been seen,” one concerned resident told the group.

Discussion also included suggestions that neighborhood watch groups like the Temescrawlers and MossWatch—located in Mosswood and Lower Temescal—join forces, as well as for petitioning City Council members to install better street lighting and plastering anti-crime fliers throughout commercial and residential districts. “It’s about building community,” said one woman, who said that her roommate had been mugged in front of their home. “You stop crime from the ground up.”

A second meeting to discuss crime and safety will be held March 11. To find out more information about the meeting, or to join the group’s email list and Google Group, email communityconnect510@gmail.com

Update: The email address has since been changed to 510communityconnect@gmail.com

26 Comments

  1. OPD and the city need a collaboration with either Merritt, Oakland Tech, or other high schools to encourage our local boys like Sgt.Davies to enter the force. We need to nuture our own. They know the turf, the kids nad of the 12 that I have seen come through the rank including Shavies, only one has had to use his gun. Our kids need to know this is another way they can contribute to their town.

  2. Terry Christian

    Wow, and their new Councilmember spent the same time celebrating his own inauguration in a bar in Uptown!

    All of these neighbors will be happy to know that Kalb wont be supporting any more new officers unless there is also more spending on investigations and (wait for it) recidivism programs. So, although we’re far short of the number of officers we’re supposed to have under Measure Y, Kalb has unilaterally increased the cost of each and every new officer with this requirement. For those who complained that our current cops are too expensive, Kalb made them even moreso in one fell swoop!

    This, on top of his idea to tax 4% political contributions to fund the public ethics commission (he now admits its not legal (and maybe also realized it wouldnt raise any money)), show that actual money-type numbers will be loosy goosey for our new Councilmember

    • Charlie Weiss

      Dont look at me, I voted for Len Raphael, a numbers man!

    • keith foxe

      Agreed on Kalb. District one voters once again got duped. How a Sierra Club endorsement means anything in regards to curbing crime escapes me. Oakland voters got another milquetoast councilmember that will conciliate and drink wine at local functions instead of speaking up and standing up to city officials and unions.

  3. I believe that any solution to what amounts to “petty” crime although I know it doesn’t seem petty when it happens to you, has to start with jobs, wages and affordable housing/rents. What is the unemployment rate of youth in the community and neighboring communities? The super rich can barricade themselves in, we can’t. Our best bet is to deal with the prime cause of crime not increased police although I recognize that public safety is important but how we should implement it is another issue.

    • Jake Wegmann

      I’m all for addressing the root causes of the crime that’s occurring. But it would be a terrible mistake to not address the crime itself (the symptom?) with more and better policing.

      Oakland is way, way under-policed compared to its peer cities. Cause and effect is always hard to pin down, but homicides have continued to fall nationally and in most big cities. So if Oakland were behaving like a normal US city, our crime would be trending down rather than surging as it is now.

      An example: I just read that the LAPD now has 10,000 officers. That means that LA has almost twice as many police per population as Oakland.

      This needs to be fixed. THEN we can talk about root causes.

    • Cori Leste

      this has escalated beyond what can be brushed off as “petty crime”. my brother-in-law was recently the victim of a home invasion where he and his friends were pistol-whipped and tied up in his apartment on shafter, while the perpetrators ransacked and robbed his place. our other friend was held up and robbed and pistol-whipped for his phone and computer on 41st a few weeks prior. he got a concussion. last summer my husband and I returned home to find someone in the act of burglarizing it, and we had a physical confrontation with the person and held them until police came resulting in my husband being badly bitten. this is just our immediate friends and family that has had these assault experiences in a 4-block radius, so think just how wide spread the issue must be. I’d love to address the root problem, but in the immediate interim, at 7 mos pregnant, I’d like to know I can walk to Bart without getting hit in the head with a gun. sadly it’s not an overreaction to assume it will probably happen to me too.

    • Poor Whitey

      I’ve been mugged at gunpoint. I lost all my stuff. I’ve had my car broken into and ransacked. But still I fail to be moved by the horror stories that plague gentrifiers.

      Here is the reality. You get by as well as you do through the economic disenfranchisement of the people who have rightful social and historic claims to the place you now call home. You chose your neighborhood, but the former tenants of your place were likely priced out of the bay.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3QLBra6LsA&feature=share&list=FLSmZ9OvxhZkxLy6JYv1HR9w

  4. livegreen

    Only an increased number of Police will help. It’s not all that’s needed, but it’s the common denominator in a (relatively) poor City. Oakland already has Measure Y programs (now called Oakland Unite, to help blunt criticism) and 3% of the General Fund go to After School programs (OFCY). That has done little to solve the problem.

    I’m not against maintaining these (some are, not me) but it has to be enough Police to a) Patrol the city; b) Respond to 911 calls; c) Investigate and Solve the crimes; d) Fight gangs and childhood prostitution; e) Enact Community Policing, so Officers & Community work together.

    I also support programs like Ceasefire. But in every other city where Ceasefire has worked they had 2 to 3x MORE police officers than Oakland now has. That’s not 3 more Police Academies. That’s like 10 more police academies.

    • We don’t have to chose between root cause programs vs cops. That’s how the politicians here frame the policy issues to keep playing us. The false choice gets the politicians the support of the politically connected police (and fire) unions and the hooked in non-profits all competing for the City’s bucks.

      We have to chose between ineffective inefficient programs and ones that work.

      We have to chose between a badly managed OPD with police who are compensated higher than Alameda sheriffs or California Highway patrol officers with the circular excuse that Oakland is dangerous because there aren’t enough cops.

      • We have to chose between a badly managed OPD with police who are compensated higher than Alameda sheriffs or California Highway patrol officers with the circular excuse that Oakland is dangerous because there aren’t enough cops; and a competently managed OPD that respects civil rights and earns the trust of the residents. Don’t add more cops to the OPD we have now.

      • Terry Christian

        Len, you continue to live in an alternative reality. Repeat: the Council will not reduce the pay of police officers. If I am somehow wrong, it will not be enough to get to your “we can have it all” fantasyland.

        If you care about police costs, ask Dan Kalb why he’s increasing the cost of each new cop by requiring additional investigative resources and recidivism programs as a condition of getting to the 800 and whatever we’re already entitled to.

        • livegreen

          Dan Kalb is right about more Investigators (since 1/2 of them do NSA work, more than for any other category including murders). However OPD can’t move more people into Investigations unless they have enough Officers in the Departrment.

          Otherwise they’ll just be cannibalizing Patrol who then can’t respond to 911 calls.

          There are some positions that can be replaced by civilians but a) there’s only so much of those positions; b) they cost money too.

          The bottom line is a) Oakland needs more Police; b) we need to get out from under the NSA; c) It all depends on having enough money + then how to allocate it.

          • Terry Christian

            Of course we need more investigators, but Kalb is a typical “I want it all” so-called progressive. He will not support cuts elsewhere in the budget unless he bucks his patrons in SEIU and Local 21. So, his requirements equals fewer officers. Simple

            Step by step is needed here. As you point out, step 1 is more cops. Step two is probably more cops, too

  5. Clayton

    The meeting was very productive. Someone has posted some notes and a video of the session for people who weren’t able to attend:

    https://temescal.nextdoor.com/news_feed/?post=7633

  6. Ken

    CHP patrolman told me after I was run off the road (into the center divide) by a ghetto driver on 880 end of December that CHP patrolling East Oakland has pushed career criminals into North and West Oakland.

    Can we spread CHP around more please? Jerry Brown, Jean Quan, Dan Kalb and Sam Morgan are you reading this?

  7. Wrong neighborhood

    This area is NOT Temescal. South of 40th is Mosswood. Temescal proper starts around 45th street.

  8. Mr Freely

    Homeroom is across the street from Thunder Road Adolescent Treatment Center.

  9. Anon

    Splitting hairs over what is and isn’t “temescal proper” is pretty silly . Maybe a good start would be to get those sleazy hotels on MacArthur blvd shut down.

  10. Robert

    As much as I do not promote violence, I do not not condone people being robbed in their own home town.

    Maybe it is time to start carrying weapons and teach the criminals that crime really doesn’t pay. There is only one way to deal with monsters, and I am not talking about Halloween Costume Monsters either.

Comments are closed.