Oakland Local

Photo by Steven Woods via Creative Commons 

Denizens of many of Oakland’s hillier neighborhoods had spent much of 2012 talking with each other about rising crime rates, robberies and home invasions. But when security cameras at two homes in the Oakmore and Upper Dimond districts showed a mysterious figure lurking in the shadows, and two teenage boys, left home alone, were surprised by an unwanted guest, their talk quickly turned into action.

“People were just traumatized,” Doug Drummond, an Oakmore resident and retired financial service executive said. “Do we want to wait for the next one to happen or do we want to be empowered to do something about it?”

Immediately, Drummond went to work trying to find a solution to deter the rising tide of crime in his neighborhood, organizing neighbors and developing a strict methodology to regain a sense of security. Within eight weeks, he and his neighbors had put in place a plan that brought a single uniformed, unarmed private security guard, complete with backup and a marked car, to patrol their streets.

Drummond targeted an area of 63 homes to create a district that could share the costs of hiring their own private security, which can run close to $45,000 a year. Private patrol officers are dedicated to their areas, walking and driving trough the neighborhood at unspecified times, and residents share personal information such as vacation schedules, work routines and specifics about their households with their patrolman.

“He becomes a part of the fabric of neighborhood,” Drummond said.

According to Drummond, crime in the area has dropped significantly since the patrols began. “The success is evident,” he said. “In the 26 months prior to going live with the patrol, there were 30 burglaries. In the four-and-a-half months since, there has only been one burglary and one attempt.”

With such success, others in the area are following suit, and Drummond has a plan to provide 1,000 homes in the area with private patrols by mid-September.

Kamorudeen Animashaun, owner of ANI Security in Oakland since 1992, and the provider of several of the private patrols, says he’s had upwards of 13 calls for the service since February.

“This is new for me in the years I’ve been here,” he said. “Crime is kind of high, and people want someone at their house when no one is home. There’s a real demand.”

Carole Klein, the project coordinator for a patrol district of 150 homes, says the patrols work because they force would-be burglars to think twice about getting caught.

“Potential criminals don’t want to be seen,” she said, “so they just go somewhere else. Unfortunately to a neighborhood without security guard.”

But while crime may be down in these select neighborhoods, other city residents are concerned about what private patrols in the hills may mean for the rest of Oakland.

“It sets a dangerous precedent,” Joe Tuman, a professor of political and legal communications at San Francisco State and Oakland mayoral candidate said. “When people with means can afford security, what happens to people without means?”

“I understand why they want to do this,” he said, “but they’re letting public officials off the hook. They should be demanding public officials devote resources to safety so that everyone gets it.”

Residents of Oakmore and Upper Dimond agree.

“At this point, the city doesn’t have resources to hire officers to keep us safe,” Klein said. “I hope this changes by next year and we don’t need to do this, but the number of officers is so reduced, there just isn’t the option of feeling safe”

Drummond hopes the city can learn something from the private patrols he’s helped initiate and consider creating an ambassador program to foster safety regardless of where citizens live, but isn’t holding his breath.

“That would take out the issue of why do they get a patrol and we don’t, since not everyone can afford it,” he said. “Could we and would we get to the point were we can protect all our citizens? Really it all comes down to money.”

But according to Tuman, public money isn’t the only component of the private patrols.

“It’s also about socio-economic class,” he said. “Goes back to the responsibility of government. They must be able to guarantee the safety of everyone who lives here regardless of class. If you live here you deserve the same kind of protection that everyone else gets. We shouldn’t put people in a situation where they go without police protection.”

27 thoughts on “New private patrols keep homes safe in Oakmore & Upper Dimond

  1. Joe Tuman should be doing the math….
    1) Those citizens indeed have relieved the tax payers of a burden
    2) They’ve done it at significantly lower cost to themselves than the city can. Doing the same through the police department would cost north of $150,000 a year not $45,000.

    Oakland needs more uniformed armed officers and they’re earning their wages and benefits everyday, however there is a place for professional, licensed, neighborhood observers, like this private security firm. If more neighborhoods taxed themselves with an unarmed security patrol, or with appropriate training did it themselves, the police could work on the major issues in the city.

  2. What other solution is there when people are told that the police will not respond unless a violent crime is in progress? My car got hit and run in Oakland. The police wouldn’t come, no matter how long I waited. They sent me to Eastmont Mall (Really? Not even downtown?) to file a report. When I got there, during the very few hours that they were open and I could get there under the time limits of my insurance, I was told that there was nobody to take my report and wouldn’t be that day. Turned out they were all of supervising a protests (not one of the ones that went bad). Lucky for me someone finally showed up and, even though it was clear he didn’t want to, took my report. In the city where I was living at the time, they had a procedure to do this online, since it requires no officer to be present.

  3. Pingback: Oakmore's Patrols are being noticed | Oakmore

  4. Steve, I agree with your points–but perhaps you misunderstood mine. I do appreciate why residents are organizing to do this. My concern is that doing so communicates a message to our elected officials that you may not want to send. When you hire your own security, you are in effect paying twice for something you should have gotten the first time when you paid your taxes. Public safety is something our government must provide for us. I know this will not prevent you or others from hiring your own security–but I do hope that you will still hold our electeds accountable for failing to provide this when the time comes to vote.

  5. I agree with both the patrols and with Joe Tuman.

    Oakland citizens shouldn’t have to turn to Private Patrols. Our City should be providing sufficient BASIC services from the General Fund. Instead the Mayor and Councilmembers CHOSE not to spend the money for enough Police, and instead to increase salaries for both city staff and Councilmembers (they gave themselves a raise).

    By doing this our Mayor and Council members have cut services yet raised the costs of delivering them.

    Of course those citizens who can afford them then want to replace missing services. The Mayor and Council members have effectively outsourced safety services to private patrols (for those who can afford them).

    Sounds pretty conservative to me.

  6. We definitely do not want to send the message to our politicians that we’ll pick up the tab for services the city is failing to provide. Given that we are the most highly taxed citizens in the most highly taxed state, I offer a solution:
    Make our out of pocket expenditures for these services deductible from our city tax burden.

    That’ll get their attention.

    I would also like to point out how overpaid our city employees are:
    http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0467.pdf

    You can see the average full time employee monthly wage in New York City is $5535. Oakland is $7109.

    So Oakland taxpayers overpay by more than 28% compared to a city which is not only function compared to Oakland’s dysfuctionality, but specifically relevant fact that NYC is the safest large city in America while Oakland is notoriously one of the least safe.

    Let us adjust those wages for cost of living, shall we?
    http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/

    If you put in “from Oakland” and “to NYC Brooklyn” (Brooklyn seems to me to be the closest to us, compared to Manhattan being SF) the $50k in Oakland would cost $67k in Brooklyn.

    Multiplying the cost of living adjustment to the 28% overpayment yields a 38% overpayment adjusted for cost of living.

    If 90% of Oakland’s city budget represents labor cost, and that if we only agree to parity with NYC compensation, adjusted for cost of living (I could make an emphatic argument that we should pay a discount to what the richest city in American can afford), then we would free up 34% of our entire budget.

    For more cops.

    If 50% of our budget is for cops, then we can apply that 34% of free budget to increase our police force by 68%. That’s more than 400 cops.

    400 more cops. No additional tax burden.

    Pay Oakland employees the same wage, adjusted for cost of living, for their counterpart that works for New York City.

    How hard would it be to accomplish this?

    Pass a Charter Amendment which requires that city employment contracts cannot exceed comparable compensation for the same job function paid by NYC, adjusted for cost of living.

    This Charter Amendment would force city officials to negotiate employment contracts which are reasonable, essentially allowing the NYC city negotiators to negotiate for us. This is appropriate because they have figured out how to have competent governance, and we have clearly not.

  7. If you really want to rage, compare property taxes between Piedmont and Oakland. In short, we pay overall about the same: close to 1.6% of the value of the house. Say that’s $10,000. In Piendmont, about 25% of that goes to the schools. In Oakland, more like 5%. I’m serious.

  8. The City of Oakland has a separate budget from the school district. Schools get their funding from the state I think. City also has parking meters and tickets, business tax (highest on the state), etc.

    Per student spending is higher in OUSD than PSD. And the amount of waste is monumental. I went to the PSD Human Resources department. It was one person. I went to OUSD human resources and it was room fulls. Even adjusting for different student populations, it was clear which one had way too many people.

    The janitors at the PSD schools are nice, take full care of their responsibilities and are ready to help. Ask any Oakland school teacher their experience with their school janitors.

    Oakland teachers have higher pay than Piedmont.

    And should we bring up the student outcomes as an indicator of the value of the money spent?

  9. Do you just make this stuff up as you go along? Per pupil spending in OUSD is $10,958 and the average teacher salary $54,669. For PCUSD it’s $11,579 and $72,710.

    But what that has to do with rich people in Oakland buying their own police is beyond me.

  10. Private patrols would reduce crime for a a couple of years or so in neighborhoods that have relatively few quick entrances and exits, and are easy to profile “suspicious looking people” based on race, clothing, year of car. I’m just as sure it would push criminals into adjoining areas.

    In the longer run, bad guys will adapt to the private patrols: figure out schedules, take potshots at them, post lookouts; jack patrol cars etc because the most affluent homes are worth targeting.

    If you have the three or four hundred dollars/year for a patrol subscription, makes sense to do private patrols now. But set an equal amount aside to contribute to the mayoral candidate whom you think will provide the leadership to knock some sense into the 8 City Council mini mayors to make this a safer, better Oakland for all of its residents that was more attractive to new tax paying employers.

    Either Bryan Parker or Joe Tuman would be a huge improvement over the mayors we’ve had for the past three decades. Other than Lionel Wilson and Jerry Brown’s first couple of years in office, we have had an amazing bad run of mayors that have only made our political muni goverance failures ever worse.

    if we don’t get our city government act together in the next few years, the combination of high crime and muni fiscal problems will create the perfect storm here.

  11. We deserve to know what Oakland employees are paid by classification without spending a bunch of time researching the Oakland Tribune database or US Census reports. We do need to know how that compares to other cities.

    Problem with the US Census data is that it only reports gross payroll compensation, and does not include cost of city paid current or retirement benefits as the Tribune database does, aka total cost of employment.

    Several years ago the City website posted a compensation survey which made it easier to do that. I don’t think it included benefits. They removed it because it was “misleading.” At that time it did appear that Oakland (not OUSD) compensation in most categories was at least 10 percent higher than any other big city in the country. I would assume the city pays for such a survey every year for contract negotiation purposes. We deserve to see that survey.

    btw: Oakland ad valorem (the percentage of value tax) is the highest in Northern Ca because it includes an override that goes to pay for ancient pension obligation bonds and the notorious Goldman Rate Swaps.

    I don’t know what Piedmont USD spends per pupil, but you would have to know whether it includes the substantial money raised by the Piedmont charitable foundation. But I assume some of the Oakland schools in affluent sections also raise additonal education money. kinda like private patrols?

  12. Most of us will not chose private patrols for a variety of reasons. But it’s not too early to think about whether you want to renew Measure Y/BB as is, change it, or let it die next year.

    Supposedly preliminary surveys do not give it enough support to get renewed in current form.

    Even if all of a revised Measure Y (as modified by Measure BB in 2010 which eliminated any requirement for minimum OPD staffing) went only to hire new cops and nothing to anti-violence programs, we’d only gain money to hire an additional 35 police.

    The parcel tax is 88/year on single family homes; 66/year per unit on mulit family, and 45/year on commercial property “single family equiv units”. Total revenue from the parcel tax about 12 Mill.

    In addition there’s a surcharge tax on commercial parking lots that brings in another 8Mill or so.

    Grand total about 20Mill/year. (http://www.smartvoter.org/2010/11/02/ca/alm/meas/BB/ )

    4 mill of the revenue goes to the Fire Dept.

    The anti-violence programs get 40% of what’s left of the approx 20Mill after the Fire Dept gets its cut. So that’s approx 40% of 16Mill = almost 7mill. Actual numbers will differ.

    My point is that even if a new Measure Y at the same tax rate, eliminated anti-violence services, we’d “only” have another 7 Mill to hire additional police and support staff. At an average of 200k/cop total cost of compensation, 7 Mill bucks/year only gets us another 35 police.

    So to significantly increase the number of cops we have to chose some combo of increasing the Measure Y/BB parcel tax above 88/year; reducing the cost per police officer; and reducing the amount spent on
    anti-violence programs.

    Take your pick but keep in mind that soon after Measure Y/BB expires OUSD will hit us with a parcel tax to fund the bond measure we passed last year and maybe a year after that the City is looking at some massive deficits as pension and medical retirement costs come home to roost.

    Len Raphael
    Desmond St

  13. Pingback: Residents in Oakland Hillside Hire Private Security—Crime Goes Down in Privately Protected Area

  14. Cost of guard per household: $45000 / 63 households = $714 / year

    63 houses is about 1 block area.

    Last year’s Measure I was cheap at $81 per year, per parcel.

    Mayor Jean Quan did plan ahead, anticipating the down turn in the economy, real estate and cut in Re-development grant. It would have maintained police level at 800 with tiny bit left over for libraries. Too bad, some of the posters here shouted it down.

  15. Actually, Michelle, Measure I funds could have been used for police services and police technology, fire services, parks maintenance and recreational services, library services, including technology,youth violence prevention, street and infrastructure repair, or senior services. There was no specific requirement in the measure for the money to be used just for more police officers. But please, don’t let actually facts get in the way of you making your point.

  16. I have seen the calculation regarding the police academies and how, because of attrition, it would take the City until 2018 to achieve 700 officers. Does anyone know if holding academies is the only way to increase the force? Assuming the money was available, wouldn’t it be possible just to hire some officers?

  17. Michelle, yes an additional $88 parcel tax on top of renewing existing MY $88, would bring in an additional 12Mill. Using what is now considered to be the average OPD cop cost of 200k/year, that would get us 60 cops after their training costs were paid for.

    But 60 cops spread over a city of 54 square miles divided in three or so shifts, say 20 cops on duty not counting disabled or in court, is not going to give the patrol hours per block coverage time that a private patrol service could give simply because private patrol company’s total cost of compensation, insurance, vehicle, training is a fraction of OPDs. And there is price competition between private patrol companies.

    For sure the quality of the service would also be a fraction.

    Btw, other areas have gotten price quotes that are about half of that 714 per household, or about 350/household.

  18. Michelle, I don’t see how the failed Measure I would have kept us at 800 cops?

    We’re now at something like 645 cops and Measure I at most, assuming it had all been spent on cops which was never guaranteed by the language of the ballot measure as Albert points out, might have kept us at 705 cops today.

  19. My point is even at 705 cops is better than 600s cops that we have now. On top of that, criminals are coming to our city with the constant blasting of the lack of polices in Oakland by “main stream” CBS and SFChronicle media. They don’t do that to San Jose.

    albert on. I will grudgingly paid more for police services even if it’s bundled with other things, . Social services do help with reducing crimes just by giving juveniles something to do.

    I would love to pay less for government services, but that’s not reality. Detroit’s precedent setting situation bears watching…

  20. While I’m glad your tune has changed Michelle, your original song was that the mayor proactively provided a reasonable solution to the current problem that was shouted down by some of the posters here. When in reality she did no such thing. Instead offered up a parcel tax that could have been used for a number of possibilities. Real solutions are good. Fantasy talk is just that…fantasy.

  21. albert:

    ” your original song was that the mayor proactively provided a reasonable solution to the current problem that was shouted down by some of the posters here”

    You did not mis-interpret me. That’s precisely what I meant.

    That’s my original and present song.

  22. I guess you did not know.

    Since there was a lot of complaint about vagaries in the allocation of the money, the proponent of the Measure I, which presumably with the Mayor’s approval, gave a precise break down of how the money was to be used.

    I don’t remember the precise numbers, but police services was on the top of the list for the money by a lot.

  23. Michelle, after the Measure I parcel tax went to the printer, a majority of the Council heard the criticism and did pass a resolution specifying how the tax proceeds would be used.

    Voters realized that Council resolutions can be revoked or amended by a majority of any Council at any time.

    The ballot measure should have been withdrawn and resubmitted with that precise language of the resolution if the Council had intended the tax proceeds to be permanently allocated a certain way.

    Re your other point about Detroit. The issue here is always framed as whether we are willing to pay higher taxes for more services. Crazy conservative cities like San Jose, Palo Alto, and San Diego have reduced total compensation to police and fire instead of making larger cuts to those services. But not Oakland.

  24. Yeah, I did Michelle. And what we were asked to vote on only specified a list of things the money could be spent on. You feeling a City Council resolution specifying more could be trusted is rather naive.

  25. albert

    Not naïve, just NOT cynical and pessimistic.
    I don’t care if the allocation changes a bit.

    Oakland politic is complicated and no one is held accountable for their contradictions, not even voters advocates.

    D. Brooks was against Measure I, claiming voters are taxed enough, and yet she lobbied to give 3% raise to all government employees in this year’s budget negotiation.

    I know people who’s for police pension reform, and yet support the police union against elected officials in every issue, thereby weakening the power of city officials to enact reform on our behalf.

    Maybe someone could propose a Measure ( or whatever is equivalent to CA Proposition for a city )on Pension reform and Oakland residents can vote directly on the issue.

  26. Michelle, you’re right that politics here are convoluted. Brooks has often made the most perceptive observations about the city’s long range fiscal situation and then voted strictly on short term political considerations.

    San Jose has it’s own pension plan that it could change with voter approval. Ours is CALPERS and gets protected by CA constitution. We have to negotiate changes with the employees much more than SJ has to.

    We would have barganing power with non police/fire employees if city council wasn’t beholden to SEIU etc for re-election support. But with police/fire we should do what Palo Alto did and revoke the city charter provision granting binding arbitration to those two “unions.”. Palo Alto did that a year ago and quickly negotiated lower benefits.

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