OAKLAND -- A push is under way for Alameda County to help Oakland deal with its dire shortage of police officers and fight a crime epidemic that is continuing to worsen.
County Supervisors Nate Miley and Wilma Chan are planning to ask their colleagues next month to double the number of sheriff's deputy patrols in Oakland without charging the city for the additional service.
They also are looking into whether the county can afford to run police academies for the city and provide crime lab services to help solve backlogged Oakland cases.
"We've got to get a handle on the crime problem in Oakland because it's putting a black eye on the whole county," Miley said.
On Friday, Miley and Chan discussed their proposals at a meeting with City Administrator Deanna Santana, Assemblyman Rob Bonta, District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, four City Council members as well as Oakland clergy, business and community leaders.
"For me, it's really gratifying that the county appears to have heard the cries from kids and grandmas and is willing to step forward," said Councilman Noel Gallo, who attended the meeting.
Oakland tallied 131 homicides last year, the most since 2006. Killings are down so far this year, but major crimes, which jumped 23 percent last year, are up another 2 percent this year, mostly due to further increases in burglaries and robberies.
City officials began seeking help from outside agencies last fall as retirements and resignations left the police force with 612 officers -- the lowest staffing level in more than a decade.
City officials hope that the county's support will encourage the California Highway Patrol to reconsider charging Oakland for extra policing help.
The state had provided free patrols from November through January, but demanded that Oakland start paying for them this month, after the city agreed to pay the Sheriff's Office for similar help.
On Tuesday, the City Council will consider paying up to $162,000 for 12 CHP officers to patrol city streets two days a week for 60 days.
Miley has not identified how much county money could be used to help Oakland. He said funds won't come from reserves, but that the county might be able to use anticipated funds from the end of state-subsidized redevelopment or funds earmarked to ease the transfer of state prisoners to local jails.
The county's assistance, which could last as long as three years, would be contingent on the City Council committing to rebuilding the police department to at least 800 officers, Miley said.
Miley was hopeful that the five-member Board of Supervisors, three of whom represent a portion of Oakland would be receptive to helping out the city.
However, Supervisor Richard Valle, whose district does not include Oakland, questioned giving away services, especially given that many county employees have gone several years without a raise.
"My gut reaction is the county has to cover its costs," he said.
Oakland currently anticipates paying the Alameda County Sheriff's Office $265,000 over the next three months to help patrol the city two days a week. The four days of patrolling thus far has resulted in 70 arrests, Sheriff Greg Ahern said.
Miley is hoping Ahern can double the assistance to four days a week, with the extra help coming free of charge.
Although the sheriff is legally required to charge for the service, Miley said there is nothing stopping the county from picking up the tab.
Ahern said his office could help the city in certain areas, but he didn't know where the money would come from for more patrols and police academies.
Oakland cadets could be trained at county police academies at a cost of between $4,000 and $6,000 per officer, Ahern said. Oakland currently is budgeting more than $3 million for police academies of about 50 cadets, although that includes recruitment costs.
When it comes to the county crime lab, Ahern said the county could assist Oakland police with identifying drugs and weapons. But the county already is at full capacity when it comes to examining fingerprints and DNA evidence, Ahern said.
Miley, who lives in Oakland, said he started looking into helping the city, after Oakland officials approved a crime-fighting package last month.
Around that time, he said, a coalition of Oakland business and clergy leaders, as well as the group Make Oakland Better Now started asking him for more support.
Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church said the group targeted the county after it charged Oakland for the deputies. "We want to challenge them because we pay taxes to the county, and we deserve the help," he said.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.