Friday, May 09, 2008

Crime in Oakland

Since one of the things I do for the Greater Rockridge NCPC is monitor 3 different Yahoo email groups relating to crime in the north Oakland area where I live, I haven't posted much about it here - I spend quite enough time dealing with it already. But although it's an undeniably useful community service, I'm finding that it's very hard on me.

I'm continually reminded that I live in a city where crime is almost completely out of control. If you call the police they may or may not come; if you don't call the police, the crime in essence never happened, since the only crimes they deal with are the ones that are reported through the 911 dispatch center. People within blocks of my house have been robbed by armed assailants within the last few weeks; and we live in one of the safer neighborhoods. It's very hard not to conclude that everyone you pass on the sidewalk is a potential criminal assailant; I regularly have to do a reality check and remind myself that I have never been mugged. (Knock wood.)

On the other hand, I take precautions. I don't walk along plugged into an iPod, or a cell phone. I watch my surroundings. I lock my car, and don't leave stuff visible inside it. We have house lights on timers. If I weren't monitoring all those Yahoo groups, I'd tell myself this is just part of living in a city; but when the city you live in is officially the 4th most dangerous city in the U.S., and there's a good deal of evidence that the city government (not just the police department) is completely unable to deal with it, it feels a little different.

We've lived here a long time; we like the neighborhood and the neighbors. We have a lovely house, that we're considering remodeling to make it more comfortable to live in. And yet I keep wondering: what will this be like in another 10 years? Is this just a blip, which will go away when the Oakland mayor and city council finally fire the police chief (which, IMHO, he fully deserves) and hire someone competent? (Assuming they're capable of finding someone competent?) Or is this the start of a slide that will leave us, as we're getting older and frailer, locked into a house that we can't sell because the neighborhood has gone to the dogs, and can't live in without bars on all the ground floor windows? I don't know. There's a lot to like about Oakland; but there's a lot that's really scary too. I just don't know.


  1. Anonymous9:07 PM

    Taking a drive on the odd Sunday to look at houses in other neighborhoods, isn't a bad lark. Don't most neighborhoods go through the new, settled, comfortable, stages then eventually slide into renewal fodder as people move into new areas? As you get older, you may want a home that fits who you are as opposed to who you were when you purchased the house you have now. Anyway, at the worst, you will have a nice drive, and come home positive your home and neighborhood is the best one for you after all.

  2. The other thing to keep in mind - and I regularly have to stop and remind myself of this - is that the incidents reported on the Yahoo group are self selected, and they have a bias toward disaster. Nobody writes in to the Rockridge Neighborhood Crime Watch Yahoo group to say, "Gee, I walked home from Rockridge BART last night, and it was a beautiful evening, and nothing at all happened." But I spent most of 12 years, from 1988 to 2000, doing exactly that. The increase in crime has happened over the last 3 years; but the incidents reported on the list represent the Pareto principle - 90% of the problems are reported by 10% of the people. And caused by even fewer.