Fed up Oakland neighbors hire own private security

February 11, 2013 8:00:34 PM PST
Neighbors in Oakland fed up with a slow police response, or none at all, are banding together to protect their properties by hiring private security officers.

Residents in the Laurel District along Interstate 580 in central Oakland have seen property crimes soar in recent years.

Oakland police say they welcome this and that community policing is all about partnership and collaboration. However, the residents who live in the neighborhood told us their idea to bring in private security grew of frustration.

We followed a Bay Alarm security agent as he patrolled the residential streets of the city, looking for signs of trouble.

"We're getting calls from all over the city and we're trying to grow responsibly. We've got to make sure that we're taking care of existing customers and adding staff when we add areas to make sure that we can serve everybody," said David Opperud from Bay Alarm.

"There have been a lot of break-ins, up above us and below," said Oakland resident Heidi Kistler.

Kistler is among an increasing number of Oakland residents, pitching in with neighbors to hire private security, to get what the city's police force can't give them -- a timely response to a burglary or break-in.

"I understand that the Oakland police are very overwhelmed, but when someone is in my backyard, coming into my backyard, it's frustrating to know that I don't have anyone to call that will come help me," said Kistler.

Kistler is referring to an incident a month ago when she came face to face with two intruders in her backyard. She called 911 and a neighbor, the neighbor arrived in minutes. Oakland police never came. Now, Kistler and 30 of her Laurel District neighbors are chipping in $30 a month to hire a patrol from Bay Alarm. They're also adding more security cameras.

Another neighbor is taking security a step further, taking measurement to replace a wooden front door, with a steel one.

"People are constantly casing our street, driving by, going slow, looking at the houses," said Oakland resident Ashley Bledsoe.

"Often times we don't respond the way that we would like to," said Oakland Police Sgt. Chris Bolton.

Oakland police acknowledge, as they throw more resources into fighting violent crime, their ability to respond to lower priority calls has dropped way off.

"Dealing with over 20,000 alarm calls and incidents a year last year, that's a challenge for us to respond to each one of those. So again, this is a solution," said Bolton.

In most cases, the private security agents are armed, but the idea is not for them to chase down or confront suspects. The idea is for them to patrol, check on properties and call police if need be.


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