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Oakland Police Department seeks to quell sideshows and burglaries

on July 15, 2009

The Oakland police plan a crackdown on “sideshows,” caravans of tricked-up cars, often from outside Oakland,  that flood Oakland residential neighborhoods in the middle of the night, attracting raucous crowds and quarrelsome gang members, with imminent danger of gunfire. In some cases, the police will seize cars in sideshows for 30 days.

“At the community meetings this has been their number one complaint, for us it’s a big deal,” said Captain Paul Figueroa, who is in charge of public safety area three, which starts east of Lake Merritt and ends close to Fruitvale Avenue.

Sideshows are caravans of high-powered cars that often turn into illegal competitions of automobile acrobatics, like tight high speed circles called donuts.  The contests  often happen between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.,  after the clubs have closed. When rival gangs confront each other, fights or gunplay can result, the police told reporters Tuesday.

Capt. Figueroa admitted the sideshow revelers outnumber the Oakland police. Other public safety areas will contribute one patrol a month.

California Highway Patrol will also supplement the effort with five 2-person squad cars on the weekends.

Deputy Police Chief Dave Kozicki said, “We want people to understand it’s not acceptable to come to Oakland in the middle of the night and disrupt Oakland. We find about a third of the people who participate are not Oakland residents, which is significant for us,” he said.

Two tactics police use to disperse sideshow crowds is citing partygoers and impounding cars.

“If you engage in reckless behavior you can count on the fact that the Oakland police will take your car for thirty days,” said Deputy Chief Kozicki.

Howard Jordan, acting police chief since March 1 after Wayne Tucker resigned following a clash with the city council, also addressed reporters. He clarified the police policy  on  municipal identification cards, which will also be available to undocumented immigrants.  They will not be accepted as a substitute for a driver’s license.  Unlicensed drivers with an ID card will simply be cited, those without IDs could be sent to jail.

The police also reported that crime continued to drop significantly. Compared to last year Oakland’s crime rate is down 13%, with homicide down 20%, crimes with firearms down 32% and robberies down 19%. But residential burglaries have increased 18%.

“I don’t want to say that it’s all because of the work the police department does,” said Chief Jordan, “but I think it’s much more than that.  I think it’s more of a citywide effort with friends in the department of human services and other city resources.

Deputy Chief Kozicki suggested things residents can do to reduce burglaries: cutting down bushes, improving lighting, installing dead bolt locks and participating in Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council Meetings.

The spike in residential burglaries is not specific to Oakland; it has become a nationwide trend because Craig’s List and eBay have become convenient “fences” to sell the stolen goods.

“We had cases where victims are finding their stuff sold on the Internet.” said Kozicki.

The meeting closed with an open question and answer session.

When asked what frustrates the police about the way the Oakland police are portrayed by the media, the police said they wanted coverage of good news. The department has been under fire for a variety of controversies, including one over the botched investigation of the killing of editor Chauncey Bailey and search warrants in drug cases.

“When there is something positive we get 2 or 3 cameras.  If there is something really negative we get 50 cameras,” said Chief Jordan.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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