OAKLAND -- Members of the Dimond community met with Oakland police Capt. Ricardo Orozco at an Aug. 7 meeting sponsored by the Dimond Improvement Association to discuss policing in the neighborhood.
In June, the Oakland Police Department reorganized the policing of streets, dividing the city into five geographic regions. The Dimond District falls in area three, commanded by Orozco, a 26-year veteran of the force. The area includes neighborhoods in the central part of the city, from Lake Merritt to Coolidge to Fruitvale and 33rd Avenue. Area captains are responsible for their region 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Geographic policing was tried once before in 2006 but was not successful.
"There was a disconnect, but we worked it out this time," said Orozco at the Dimond library. The previous attempt at geographic policing divided the city into two areas.
"It's important to shrink the areas of responsibility. You can't hold someone responsible for half of the city," said Stan Dodson, a Dimond resident and board member of the Dimond Improvement Association.
"Now that we are back to five areas, we talk a lot. We are getting a lot done. We are sharing a lot of ideas," said Hoang Banh, the Police Department's neighborhood services coordinator.
While the district is still reeling from the July 17 shooting death of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, who was having a sleepover at her friend's house, police said the most prevalent crimes in the area are street-level robberies, burglaries and human trafficking. Captains are expected to work with investigators and problem-solving officers to identify criminal patterns and solve crimes, as well as strengthen partnerships with the community.
"I think they are taking the right approach, but this will take quite a while," said Karen Long, a Dimond resident and block captain. "Mandatory overtime shifts are causing attrition. My concerns center around retaining officers."
There are 642 officers in Oakland, said Orozco, and 250 officers on patrol assignments. The short term goal is to increase the force to 700 officers, which is still short of the 900 to 1,100 estimated to keep the city safe.
Thirty-six civilians have recently been added to the police force said Bruce Stoffmacher, aide to District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf. Stoffmacher anticipated that this will make a difference, easing demands on officers' time and freeing them up to police the streets.
"We lose four to five officers a month," Stoffmacher estimated. "We need one and one-half academies a year just to maintain the current number of officers. We are currently budgeting two academies a year."
About 70 recruits are admitted into each academy, but on average, only 40 to 45 will graduate, Stoffmacher said.
"We need to budget for a lot of police academies," he said. "We need the leaders of Oakland to commit to paying for them."
Hiring officers from other cities and agencies has proved to be unsuccessful in the past, Orozco said.
"The Oakland Police Department is making a renewed effort to grow our own," he said. "We have the need for cultural competency and people that understand Oakland people and have community ties."
Next year, the expiration of Measure Y will add a new twist to the funding quandary. The tax currently funds the problem solving officers and violence prevention programs employed in the city.
If a new tax is not passed, "We will have a much harder time paying for what we are paying now," Stoffmacher said.
"It's a huge, complicated problem," said Richard Johnson, a Glenview resident, who favors an approach focused on social services. "I don't believe that the police can solve all the problems, though they are an important factor. We need community involvement. Then we have a chance."