Cleaning up West Oakland

March 26, 2008 7:02:44 PM PDT
In Oakland, people are coming together to make a difference. It's called "Operation Safe and Clean Streets," a first-ever, large-scale coordinated effort launched in West Oakland Wednesday to make that neighborhood a better place.

Piece by piece, step by step, volunteers and city crews joined forces to clean up the West Oakland neighborhod known as 'ghost town'.

"Basically, what we're doing is trying to keep the community clean and safe because in an unclean and unsafe environment, harsh things will happen," says volunteer Shelando Menefee.

Some high school students gave up a few hours of their spring break to help out.

"I'm helping instead of just sitting down and talking about it," says volunteer Taurus Hamilton.

It's all part of a coordinated attempt to improve conditions there, led by Mayor Ron Dellums, the City Council, and the Oakland Police Department.

This program is not just about making the streets of West Oakland cleaner. It's also about making these neighborhoods a lot safer.

"It has consistently been an area that has the highest crime rate in the entire city of Oakland," says Captain Anthony Toribio of the Oakland Police Department.

Captain Toribio explains, it's all part of the new strategy of "geographic policing" started in January, which assigns officers to specific neighborhoods.

"The primary reason that we are out here with other city agencies and volunteers is to encourage people that live and work here to participate, to be involved."

To that end, community outreach teams went door-to-door to tell residents how they could participate in various programs.

"It's an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other, to socialize, and network informally," says one resident.

Resident Charlotte Bremond has lived in West Oakland for 55 years.

"There are a lot of people that have lived here a long time, and that's what helps to make a neighborhood...a neighborhood," says Bremond.

Bremond and others plan to do their part to make their newly-cleaned neighborhood safer by starting a neighborhood watch program.