By Sarah Pritchard
I am a young, white freelance dancer and nonprofit communications professional. I have lived in the same apartment in Rockridge for three years. I am part of gentrification in Oakland, and I am extremely disturbed by the recent crowdfunding campaigns to introduce private security patrols in my neighborhood.
Rockridge is known for its tree-lined streets and craftsman style homes, tech professionals who commute to San Francisco and beyond, and moms pushing their designer strollers down College Avenue. But I know that my neighborhood is much more than that. In my neighborhood, there are also public housing residents. There are people experiencing homelessness, and there are working families. In my neighborhood, there are young artists like me—holding tight to the rental rates we locked in a few years ago. In short, Rockridge is just as complex as the city it belongs to. That’s why I like living here, and that’s why I am concerned about the implications of the success of these crowdfunding campaigns.
Private security companies aren’t subject to the same oversight and accountability as publically funded police departments. Their officers aren’t required to receive the same level of training, nor are they required to hold transparent policies on things like racial profiling. In fact, it is common for officers who have been fired from multiple police force jobs to seek employment as private security guards. In 2009, Lori Pixley won a wrongful death lawsuit against a San Diego security company after learning that the guard who shot and killed her son hadn’t provided any professional references.
A private security force that isn’t accountable or transparent in its policies doesn’t make me feel safer in my neighborhood. It makes me feel threatened, because I know that my neighbors of color are more likely to be profiled than I am. Because I know the impact that increased policing has on marginalized communities, and I don’t want to be part of a neighborhood that turns teenagers on their way home from the corner store into suspects.
The private security firm isn’t the only thing that lacks transparency in this process. It seems profoundly undemocratic that a few people who can afford to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign are able to decide for the rest of us who live here that private security will make us all safer. Unlike the gang injunctions imposed by the Oakland Police Department, there will never be a public hearing on the issue, no research conducted to determine if private security firms actually decrease crime. Although I don’t want a private security patrol on my street, I’ll never have the opportunity to voice my opinion or enter a dialogue with my neighbors. Money has done its talking, and the matter has already been decided.
Ultimately, increased police presence is not the solution to crime in Oakland. According to an article published in the East Bay Express this week, violent crime is down in Oakland, while robberies remain a big problem. This points to the larger problem behind Oakland’s crime rate—persistent income inequality is on the rise with the most recent tech boom, while a fraying safety net leaves more people with fewer options.
The solutions to these problems will not be funded on Crowdtilt. They take real engagement and commitment from policymakers and community members alike. They involve building alternatives to the criminal justice system and supporting the basic services like affordable housing, access to healthy food, healthcare, and quality public education that allow people the opportunity to survive and thrive.
Luckily, there are organizations in Oakland already engaged in re-envisioning our collective future. Organizations like Forward Together, Youth UpRising, Brown Boi Project, Justice for Families, and many others provide Oaklanders with opportunities to build safer communities for everyone—not just those who can afford it.
Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.