OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- As crime rates soar in Oakland, a growing number of city residents are hiring private security guards to protect their neighborhoods.

The San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1eS2ZlB ) reports that neighbors are banding together to pay for security guards, especially in the more affluent Oakland hills.

The city of about 400,000 residents has seen a sharp spike in crime in recent years that coincides with reductions in its police force.

Police records show that since 2011 auto thefts in Oakland have increased 33 percent, burglaries have risen nearly 40 percent and robberies have jumped 54 percent.

Oakland officials say putting more officers on the streets is a top priority. Since January 2009, the cash-strapped city has cut the size of its police force from 830 to 615 officers.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com



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