Oakland's Fruitvale residents fed up with crime want more police, other safety measures
OAKLAND, Calif. - Community members in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood faced city officials at a public safety meeting Monday night. More than 100 residents and business owners shared a long list of problems and suggestions.
A Spanish interpreter also was there, making sure nothing got lost in translation.
One common theme was the need for more law enforcement officers. Many people voiced their concern about a recent shooting at a nearby convenience store and another on East 12th Street that rattled children and staff at a nearby school.
School officials came with two proposed solutions.
Karla Gandiaga, Head of School at Arise High School had one suggestion: Close East 12th Street from Fruitvale to 35th.
"Seems many of the incidents come from there," she said.
The second request was to have a patrol officer on the Fruitvale Village plaza Monday through Friday full time, instead of just four days a week.
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao says the city faces a $300 million deficit, but she made one promise.
"We are committed to bringing back that walking officer that speaks Spanish here in the Fruitvale," said Mayor Thao.
The Unity Council CEO Chris Iglesias says they've hired round-the-clock private armed security guards.
"I think folks are a lot more comfortable going around the Village. I think the merchants really appreciate it because they're getting more customers, especially in the evening, so it's definitely having an impact," said Iglesias.
He says the cost of $55,000 a month is not sustainable though.
BART Police Lt. William Spears says BART police have ramped up efforts, including increasing the number of patrol officers, making sure broken security cameras are replaced, and having more eyes on the trains and platforms.
"We've also redeployed police personnel, getting them out of cars and more on the trains and more on foot," said Spears.
Council member Noel Gallo called for Oakland police to put a new substation in the Fruitvale neighborhood to increase police presence and crack down on rival gangs.
"We have the gang activities that have come back up. In this area, this immediate area, where they're robbing grandma and grandpa, breaking into business and we have to stop that behavior," said Gallo.
Community members called for more meetings so the city can hear concerns and community solutions.
"You've got to follow up with another meeting. That's got to happen and maybe specifically for those who have complaints," said Cephus "Uncle Bob" Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant who has worked on public safety issues in the community since his nephew was shot and killed at the Fruitvale Bart station by police in 2009.
Gallo and the Unity Council say they are committed to scheduling more public meetings to give community members a way to voice concerns and offer suggestions for solutions.