Oakland officials hopeful for National Night Out

July 25, 2012 10:50:26 PM PDT
In two weeks, communities around the country will come together for National Night Out parties -- a way for neighbors to get to know one another. But in Oakland, the idea is not being embraced by those living in some of the city's toughest neighborhoods.

In two weeks, communities around the country will come together for National Night Out parties -- a way for neighbors to get to know one another. But in Oakland, the idea is not being embraced by those living in some of the city's toughest neighborhoods.

To date, there have been 64 gun-related homicides in the city of Oakland; during this same time in 2011, there were 60. But city officials say that good policing is a community effort and the perfect place to start is by getting to know your neighbors.

Linda Sue Jenkins has lived in her west Oakland home for 61 years and now she spends more time inside, than out. She says the gun violence that plagues her neighborhood has only gotten worse.

In November, Hiram Lawrence Jr, an Oakland toddler, was caught in a spray of bullets while in his father's arms. In June, gunfire rang out mid-afternoon at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 29th Street. Police say they witnessed the suspect open fire from his car with no motive for the attack.

It's the random nature of the violence, Jenkins says, forcing many to flee Oakland.

"I don't blame them. I want to be safe too," she said.

Safety and neighbors looking out for one another is the idea behind Oakland's National Night Out. City leaders are hoping to have Oaklanders in every neighborhood host block parties so they can introduce themselves, strengthen community spirit and use it as a crime prevention tool to save and stay in their neighborhoods, not flee them.

Carolyn Broughton lives in the tony area of Oakland's Rockridge District -- where the only frightening thing she encounters are the weeds growing in her driveway.

"We've got an email list of neighbors, letting people know what's going on and telling people what's going on," Broughton said.

It's the eyes and ears of people like Broughton that police say is key to crime fighting.

But Jenkins isn't convinced police can effectively monitor multiple parties being hosted across the city.

"As long as it's early; now if you have it when it's dark, I won't be there," she said.

National Night Out is Tuesday, August 2.