Street thugs harass parents, kids in E. Oakland

February 24, 2010 5:38:39 PM PST
Drug deals in the parking lot, bullets whizzing into the building, and shots fired while kids are on the playground are just some of the realities on one school campus in East Oakland.

Educators and parents are now demanding action to make two elementary schools that share the same property safer and city leaders are listening.

In the past three months, there have been three shootings right outside the East Oakland campus shared by Acorn Woodland and Encompass elementary schools. And, they all took place during school hours.

Once, a bullet hit the building and just a few weeks ago a man was shot just feet away from the parking lot. Parents say gang members harass children on their way to class and drug dealers try to make sales to mothers walking their kids home.

"It's nothing new here in Oakland," says parent Reina Chavez. "That's why we're probably going to move pretty soon to San Leandro."

After one too many close calls, the principals of the two schools came together to say "enough is enough." They demanded city leaders, parents and police to do more and in a matter of days, they got a quick response.

"If we are going to transform this city, if we are going to transform lives, then we've got to be able to have access to all parts of our community," says Minh-Tram-Nguyen.

"We know that that impacts kids once they get here. If they're feeling afraid when they get to school, that's what they come in with," says Acorn Principal Kimi Kean. "So, we want to help and partner and figure out how to create some safer streets."

On Tuesday, a coalition of law enforcement and city leaders met with more than one dozen members of the gang believed to be causing most of the problems in the neighborhood to send the message that it is time to stop.

"We are going to target this area. We are going to step up patrols immediately. We also have officers who are going to be now dedicated to the truants in the area," says Officer Holly Joshi.

The city and school district also plan to build a fence around the school, hoping to put an end to the open-air drug dealing that goes on in the parking lot.

"Now, they're recruiting kids that are in the 3rd and 4th grade to be part of these gangs out here and that's absolutely insane," says Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid.