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Police volunteers to escort holiday shoppers from West Oakland BART to their cars

on December 15, 2011

This Thursday and Friday, Oakland police volunteers will provide a valuable service to holiday shoppers with cars parked at the West Oakland BART station. Volunteers from the Oakland Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association (CPAAA), a group of civilian graduates who have taken classes at the OPD, will be available from 5 pm to 9 pm. They’ll escort people from the station to their vehicles, making the task of trekking through the dark laden with holiday goodies less daunting.

“We’ve always wanted to do this program,” says Lea Rubio, coordinator of the CPAAA. “West Oakland is the last BART station leaving Oakland so people park here, and during the winter it gets dark early. There are a lot of riders and a lot of robberies, although we never noticed a particular spike during the holidays.”

Rubio said that this is the third year the group has offered the service. “So far, it’s been really successful—and the community likes it because there’s an increased police presence,” she said.

The CPAAA volunteers, OPD officers, and BART police will team up for this effort, offering not only walking escorts but rides to people who parked too far away from the BART station, are exhausted by their heavy bags, or just plain don’t feel like walking. Oaklanders looking for an escort will find about 15 CPAAA volunteers at a clearly marked table inside the station. Most will be wearing red vests, jackets, or t-shirts with the CPAAA shield on it.

CPAAA volunteers have all had background checks and graduated from the 14-week Citizen’s Police Academy of Oakland that is run by the Oakland Police Department. Attendees don’t receive formal police training, but learn the ins and outs of the OPD and its work.  The academy’s classes, which are all free and open to the public, are taught by different members of the department and give the students an overview of everything the police deal with. Course topics include “Police Patrol Functions,” “Homicide Investigations” and “The Future of the OPD.” Most people who attend the classes are just interested, civic-minded citizens, but some have gone on to join the police force.

Once they graduate, they can participate in activities like the BART escort service, which is something that Rubio wishes the OPD could afford to do more often. “Quite frankly, we wish we could run a service like this all year round,” she says. “But for now, we’re doing what we can.”

For those who will be walking to their cars without an escort, OPD recommends always being aware of your surroundings. Don’t be distracted by cell phones and electronic devices, and stay in well-lit areas. Most importantly, remain alert when you’re entering and exiting your car, and lock the doors once you get in.

Image: Holiday shoppers arriving in West Oakland on BART can enlist an escort to walk them to their cars this Thursday and Friday. Photo courtesy atariboy via Flickr.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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