Two steps forward and one step back -- that's been the story of Oakland's long-standing battle with crime. But thanks to strong neighborhood watch groups and a bigger police presence, we're seeing signs of encouragement.

Oakland Police Department officers Dana Ly and Nolan Chan have had a productive month so far, with the arrest of four men and the recovery of two vehicles carjacked in separate incidents. Police say these arrests wouldn't have been made without information from witnesses.

Sadly, though, there seems to be no shortage of criminals looking for an easy score. Consider the recent mugging of a senior who was walking with her daughter on Everett near Park Boulevard. She was attacked by a man who reportedly jumped out of a car full of juveniles, knocked her down and grabbed her purse. Thankfully, the 80-year-old woman and her daughter are OK and the purse was found (minus $80 cash) strewn along 28th Avenue. A good Samaritan drove it to the victim's home.

Book it: Montclarion Kenneth Levin really opened the spigot with his book "Crazy Razor" in 2012. The retired U.S. Navy commander has just published a second book of war tales based on his time in Vietnam. "I think once I got up a full head of steam writing, I just didn't stop," Levin says. Check out his new book of fictional short stories called "The Many Deaths of Comrade Binh -- Tales From the Vietnam War."


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Speaking of Montclair writers, former Mason McDuffie real estate agent Rex Thomas has published his first novel -- a Kindle indie book called "Hot Bed." Thomas worked on the San Francisco-based mystery for more than 10 years. He caught a big break when he won the Jack London Novel Writing Contest and convinced Berkeley's Alan Rinzler to edit his manuscript. (Rinzler has worked with big names like Hunter S. Thompson.)

Email Bag: Readers are complaining about what some call an eyesore on Broadway Terrace at Mountain Boulevard. It's a fence that's gone up around the shuttered Montclair Mart convenience store. No word on what the building owners have planned for the site, which has been home to a number of businesses over the years.

Around town: I ran into Justice Baxter not long ago, checking his mail at the recently closed Wheels of Justice. He's already missing Montclair and the people who got him his start in the bike business. Baxter bought his first bike from Montclair Sports owner Tom Revelli, who eventually gave him a job because he was coming in so much.

When Revelli offered to sell his bike shop to Baxter, the young entrepreneur built the business into a second location on Solano Avenue. Unfortunately, new bike sales are down and Baxter is back to one shop -- in Albany. Last he heard, a bakery was among the businesses looking at his old Montclair address.

Speaking of addresses, last week's column item on Calm, A Salon, had the wrong address for the new location. It's 4179 Piedmont Ave.

Happy trails: Redwood Ranch Stables has won the Best of Parents Press reader award. The stables first opened in 1935 as the Oakland Riding Academy and several generations have learned to ride here since those early days. Not only does Redwood Ranch have a big fan base in Oakland, it's next to Redwood Park and riders have access to 200 miles of stunning vistas and tree-lined trails.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.