Gawker’s got a piece running this weekend with the headline Scared Gentrifiers Crowdfunding Money for Their Own Private Cops that talks up the three crowding projects Rockridge residents have going as a way to get short-term private police patrols going in the area (Note: 2 of them are almost 100% funded). Reading their dish on the efforts to fund “Lower Rockridge South/West,”  “North/West of Lower Rockridge,” and a third that’s “Lower Rockridge plus the hills above Roanoake Street” is moderately interesting (most of the article is taken from an earlier piece that ran in Tech President and invokes Ethan Zukerman, co-head of the MIT Media Lab and all sorts of policy wonkery)–but the real great read is from the Oaklanders (and others) in the 150-plus comments.

Mayor Quan, Joe Tuman, Bryan Parker, other mayoral hopefuls  and the whole city council should be reading these comments, because they underscore the anger, desperation and scorn that thousands of Oaklanders are feeling about the state of the city (the comments also track with the September 2013 poll done for the Oakland Chamber covered here).

Here’s some of the comments from what seem to be locals that resonated with me:

“Even news crews need armed guards in Oakland, since it’s common for all of their equipment to be taken at gunpoint, sometimes even while they’re on the air! This isn’t about some scared yuppies; Oakland has no leadership and an ineffective and severely understaffed police force.”

“I moved to Rockridge earlier this year and the number of robberies are skyrocketing, and totally overwhelming the already understaffed police force.

When robbers get brazen enough to hold up at gunpoint 20 people waiting to head to work at 9am in the morning, something is very essentially broken. The security patrols are expected to simply observe and report to Oakland PD as they are simply unable to patrol the area enough to deter these robberies.”

“It’s it sad that it’s come to this? Absolutely. Residents are at a loss of how else to create a safe environment walking to and from work.”
“oakland isn’t nyc or sf. government & the police dept are a mess.
i live in oakland, and i see a lot of potential in the city. but we are far and away the #1 city for theft/armed robbery, and i dont blame people for taking safety into their own hands.”

“Not surprised at all. Oakland’s police force was gutted a few years ago. They are about 200 officers short of their staffing requirements. People are going to do whatever they have to do to provide some sort of protection for themselves since the police are so understaffed and violent crime rates are way way up.”


“The problem is that the mayor recently laid of 80 cops in a city already seriously underpoliced and then directed the remaining cops to only serve a single square mile in the center of town. That caused response time in every neighborhood outside of the city core to jump to 20 minutes or more. Gentrified or not, every neighborhood in Oakland is fucked. A poll released the other day revealed that only 6% of Oakland residents would vote for the mayor again in the next election. She’s toast.”

“As a former resident (up until 3 months ago) of the “Lower Rockridge South/West” area described in the second CrowdTilt link, I can tell you that this area is not full of terrified techies but rather mostly families with lots of small kids. The area is also not gentrifying because Rockridge has been a well-to-do area for decades (both upper and lower, just with bigger houses in the hills). I’m not sure why the author adopts the dismissive tone implying the residents are being overly dramatic.”

“Man, I know lots of people who live over there. Cops won’t even come out for anything less than a violent assault, and even then, it can be at least a day. Car stolen, house broken into, or anything of the kind? Forget about it. You’ll never hear from the Oakland PD… they’re too swamped.

I’m all for more government, better policing, higher taxes, and similar commie shit, but sometimes you just want to keep your shit from getting jacked.”

“That’s a pretty offensive title for your article. I guess that’s the point? What do you have against a group of people trying to stay safe in their own neighborhood by hiring private security to monitor the neighborhood while we’re at work? I’m not sure where you live but you may be aware the Oakland should have around 800 cops for a city our size, we have 600. Our police resources are stretched too thin to cater to home robberies and muggings, when the police are called they don’t come. Our city is a 5-10 years (optimistically) from being whole again, most of us are in it for the long haul but also want to be safe walking home from Bart at night. You seem to feel like you need to make this about fear when in fact its about taking control and supporting our neighbors, its about being honest with our situation and responding in a way that makes sense.”

Once again, our city is mocked in the mainstream media for its problems–are we  all just idiots–or do we need to find a way to fix this mess?  Thoughts–please.


About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local ( a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.

4 Responses

  1. Len Raphael

    Read that poll again. it sums up the attitude of high propensity Oakland voters to want refuse to prioritize which services are more important to them than others. Voters want money spent on schools, cops, anti violence programs, libraries but are wary of paying even higher real estate taxes.

    The poll didn’t ask the question as to whether we have to lower what we pay some or all city employees or just their benefits, or the outside non profits that do anti -violence programming. My hunch is that a typical Oakland voter would say of course we shouldn’t lower what we pay any of them.

    Voters are not great at prioritizing a 400Million dollar general fund budget despite what open budget proponents might say.

    That’s what we elect city officials to do for us.

    Instead of prioritizing, our politicians tack in the winds of opinions between voters and public service unions, and fail to perform effective long range fiscal and policy planning. They stumble thru each two year budget with interim changes. To get elected they have to promise the moon to every voter and the voters so much want to believe them that they vote for them.

    And for one Novemember day in an election year, the Oakland voters have hope.that Oakland government will improve.

  2. Francis

    The mess pre-dates Quan. Jane Brunner and company froze OPD hiring levels several years ago. And that was the beginning of this mess since she/they didn’t consider that officer retirements would drastically outpace new recruits/hiring/academies. They gutted the force via attrition. People this is why you don’t hire an electrician to perform open heart surgery and you don’t ask an opera singer to navigate a nuclear submarine….wrong qualifications for the task at hand. Bruner et al made decisions that were beyond their scope of knowledge and practice. This is a big city with a complicated history. Recent city councils were made up of folks who might have been able to run a quiet suburb but they are way over their heads in this setting.

  3. Len Raphael

    F, The mess does predate the current Mayor’s term as mayor, though a large piece of the fiscal and public security problems were created or could have been ameliorated in the early years of our current Mayor’s term on the City Council. But even then she was only one of eight council members.

    I much more familiar with fiscal history of Oakland than policing history older than 5 years. But based on what council members said and did the last 5 years, I’d say they deliberately gave lower priority to staffing OPD than other priorities such as increasing the compensation of all city employees, including police and fire. The city had all sorts of human resource staff and finance people who could easily have projected the results of those priorities.

    No reason to put most of the responsibility on Council Member Brunner. She was only one of 8 members. When pushed in the 1998 D1 election on police staffing her response was that if the voters want more cops they have to be willing to pay higher parcel taxes for them. I think that summed up the position of most of the other members for at least a decade.

  4. R2D2II

    Francis has got it right. Oakland’s electeds are naive amateurs who are way over their heads in trying to deal with our complex of problems. This amateur, insular culture in city hall has been in power for decades and does not change. Much of the current Council had been staff to other Council people before getting elected (Kernighan, Reid, Schaaf) and have been deeply-immersed in the long-standing narcissistic, dysfunctional culture.

    Before stumbling into her least-popular “election” as Mayor, Quan had been accomplishing nothing on the Council. She had been a sponsor of Measure Y which has spent about $150 million over nearly ten years with no measurable effect in reducing violence. Council member Schaaf, a chief architect of Measure Y as a staff member, still proclaims her pride in this poorly-designed-and-implemented legislation.

    Newly elected Council members Gallo, McElhaney and Kalb have done very convincing jobs in recent months, each in his or her own way, to prove that they cannot think outside the same old dysfunctional framework.

    A little bit of honesty, knowledge and competence among our electeds could make a big difference in Oakland.


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