This is an excerpt from reporter Scott Johnson's blog, which focuses on the effects of violence and trauma on the community. Go to www.oaklandeffect.com for updates on his reporting and www.insidebayarea.com/oakland-hotspot for updates from the Oakland Hotspot.
Month on month, crime is up in our hot spot. With one murder, seven robberies, one shooting and seven residential burglaries, every category saw an increase since the last Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council for police District 27 met.
And my particular block, it turns out, was the worst spot in the neighborhood.
"Melrose and 50th is one of the hot spots this month," said our local problem-solving officer (PSO), David Pullen, last night.
Pullen was referring to the massive shootout a few days ago that left one man dead and upward of 30 bullet slugs scattered across four streets.
I've been to a few NCPCs over the years, but last night's, in our hot spot, was particularly interesting. I, and I think many of the others who were there, learned a few things.
There was a pretty vigorous discussion about what ordinary folks can or should do if they're witnessing a crime. Officer Pullen informed us that when people give their names when calling to report a crime it makes the job of the police a lot easier.
Say, for instance, you see someone dealing drugs on your corner. You call the police. If you leave your name, the police can then go to the scene and arrest the people meeting your description based upon your call. They can use your call as a "reliable source of information" that will hold up in court. Pullen said people's names automatically go into the Computer Aided Dispatch system (CAD) and remain there for documentation purposes only.
If, however, you choose to remain anonymous, the police, if they show up at all, have to see something for themselves that gives them probable cause to stop somebody. If they don't see anything, even if they see the people matching the description you gave in your call, they can't do anything.
It does get complicated. Defendants have a right to know who their accusers are, so that information could be divulged in court later on. I asked if this was why most people chose to remain anonymous, for fear of retaliation. Maybe yes, maybe no, people said. No one knew if that information could be redacted in a public hearing if the safety of the original notifier was in jeopardy.
A lot of people were concerned about burglaries. One woman, who identified herself as a Native American, told about her most recent experience. She left her house on Friday and returned on Sunday. She expected that she might be robbed, so she left a note to the would-be thieves. It said something like: "I'm an American Indian. The spirits will get you for this. Someone loves you." (That's a very rough and inexact, second hand memory, she said, but you get the point.)
The thieves did come. They found the note. But ...
"They didn't take anything," she told us. "They left money, jewelry, cameras ..."
Someone else spoke up and said that he sees strange things around his house in the middle of the day.
"I saw a guy fornicating with a prostitute around noon," he said. "I'm always picking up condoms, and there's no police presence, that's the main problem."
You have to call when you see anything, Pullen urged them. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."
There was a lot of frustration about a certain local "business" that most people are pretty sure is just a front for a drug dealing operation. People got pretty worked up about the lack of government response. No one was very happy with Councilwoman Libby Schaff, who was not present last night, but sent a representative in her stead.
One woman quipped, "Libby knowing about something and Libby doing something about something are two different things." I thought it was the best line of the night.
Still, evicting a business owner from a private property is tricky business, especially in Oakland.
"I understand that people are fed up," said Schaff's stand-in, a woman named Natasha. "You do not deserve to have this kind of stuff in your neighborhood. We'd like to yank these people right out of your neighborhood but it's not that easy. I can understand the frustration."
As if to emphasize the news from the NCPC, I returned home last night only to find four police cruisers parked at the intersection of, you guessed it, 50th and Melrose, the "hot spot" of our "hot spot." I rolled down my window to ask a cop what had happened.
"Oh, just people not being nice to each other," he said. Turned out a car had been jacked. I went for a drive later on and there were police all up and down Foothill, stopping people, questioning. Something was definitely up. I had some tacos, went home.
Then I woke up this morning and went to get in my car. It wouldn't start.
When I lifted up the hood there was a gaping hole. During the night someone had stolen the battery.
At least they didn't steal the whole car.
Contact Scott Johnson at 510-208-6429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.