PIEDMONT -- New Police Chief Rikki Goede is taking a giant bite out of crime with a list of steps to keep the bad guys out of Piedmont.
The City Council will review her recommendations at its Monday night meeting. Residents are anxious after two back-to-back home-invasion robberies Jan. 21. No one was injured, but residents were confronted with weapons during the robberies. Piedmonters turned out in force at the Jan. 22 council meeting to demand action. Two other home-invasion robberies took place in December.
The Piedmont police force is down due to retirements, disability and frozen positions. The department is authorized for 28 full-time positions, with 20 sworn personnel. Current staffing is at 22 full-time employees.
"Without question, this has hindered the department's ability to effectively respond to and investigate criminal activity," Goede said in her memo issued Tuesday. "It impacts the department's ability to maintain a minimum on-duty staffing of one sergeant and two officers that is critical to the safety of our officers."
Goede, who was sworn in as Piedmont's new police chief on Jan. 22, has taken or recommends the following actions: overtime has been authorized to backfill positions to ensure minimum staffing at all times; and paid reservists (primarily retired officers) would be increased from two to five for more patrols.
Overtime has been authorized for two officers to continue investigative efforts on other open criminal investigations. Goede has reached out to two other Bay Area departments that have provided resources to help Piedmont investigate the home-invasion robberies. She is working with Oakland investigators who are following up on home invasions in their city with similar suspect descriptions to those crimes committed in Piedmont.
The department is seeking council authorization to actively begin hiring ahead of anticipated vacancies to minimize patrol gaps. There is the possibility of five retirements in the coming year, with that number of employees who are age 50 and older.
The department has two new officers from the academy in the final hiring process, but field training takes a minimum of four to six months to complete, Goede said.
The department has met with a vendor that provides license plate readers and video surveillance services and is waiting for a final cost estimate to provide to council.
"Piedmont is a very safe community (but) is not immune to the same issues facing every city in the state," Goede said. "Community collaboration and vigilance are essential to maintaining safety.
"Without question, 11,000 pairs of eyes watching out for the community is better than only 20."
Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka, who was instrumental in forming the Public Safety Committee, said of Goede's efforts, "The City Council, the city administrator and the police chief will continue to proactively respond to this issue.
"The city has immediately increased police and volunteer patrols, and neighborhood watches are being organized by the Public Safety Committee.
"Certainly more needs to be done," Fujioka said. "I support our chief as she rolls out a comprehensive strategy. I encourage citizens to attend the town hall meeting on Feb. 12."