Answers from the January Community Meeting
MNC Safety Town Hall Q&A
On January 9th time constraints limited the number of submitted questions that could be addressed. The MNC collected all of the questions and distributed them to the relevant panelists. Their written responses are collected in this document. Note that no questions were directed to the MVA and MNC palmists.
OPD: Christopher Bolton, Captain of Police. Police Area 2 – North Oakland
What is the response time for Oakland police for crimes reported in progress? What is the response time for arrival at sites where the crime is complete?
The below is what was provided to me by Communications in preparation for the MNC meeting:
The average answering speed from Jan-Sep (2019) was 27 secs for 911 calls.
Median response time citywide for priority 1 calls was 8:29 (min:sec)
Median response time citywide for priority 2 calls was 1:20 (hr:min:sec)
From experience, a lot of factors can influence the above response times. The question seems to be geared to learn about response time for emergency calls in progress. The median response time for priority 1 calls above is the best answer I have but not all priority one calls are true emergency responses. For instance, a call requesting an officer to transport a prisoner from the Department to the jail may be coded as a priority one and may take up to 2 hours to complete…calls like that provide a significant drag on the median.
Regardless of the absence or presence of response time data, North Oakland Area 2 officers know that fast, safe and efficient response to priority calls and crimes in progress is our obvious priority. That expectation is complimented by the strategy that directs officers to remain in their assigned beat as much as possible in order to have officer presence dispersed across all Oakland neighborhoods. While working on local beat and neighborhood priorities, beat officers are able to respond faster when not concentrated in beats that are disproportionately experiencing serious and violent crime. Call management strategies that include the use of online reporting also help to free patrol officer time and ability to respond to emergency calls faster (See number 2 below).
Victim of crimes have been told police will not respond and to fill out an online complaint form. Then nothing happens. The criminals know this and become bolder. Why is this being done to the citizens of Oakland?
In order to prioritize responses and provide more patrol officer resources and focus on crime trends and serious and violent offenses, online reports are made for certain crimes when investigation and follow-up is not likely due to circumstances of time, reporting needs, or the availability of evidence and suspect information. I spoke candidly at the meeting about officer and investigator assignments, resources and capacities. On an annual basis, OPD receives over 600,00 calls for service and over 300,000 of those calls result in dispatched incidents. Due to the existence of serious and violent crime and the nature of some incidents, multiple officers – even entire squads – may be dispatched to handle a single call for service. A call management strategy which, for instance, directs a caller to file an online report for auto burglary when no evidence or suspect identity is immediately known helps us to do a better job with call response.
I realize that it is less satisfying to submit an online report but it’s incorrect to say that “nothing happens” as a result of the report. The online report data is used later in our review, analysis and response to better understand neighborhood issues and priorities while the officer who is not spending time writing the report are able to focus on those reports that have actionable leads. Your community resource officers use the online report data to better prioritize where and how to address specific issues and problems and help to evaluate the effectiveness of our responses. February will also bring an Alameda County law enforcement task force to Oakland and we have a focus on North Oakland burglary, theft and robbery hotspots based on crime data that includes online reporting.
I think bike police are a good idea. However, I’ve seen bike policemen numerous times biking up castle towards Skyline Dr. Is this the most effective use of this patrol?
I shared and discussed this observation with our bicycle teams. I’m glad that the value in seeing bicycle officers is being felt and understood. Certain routes are used to improve conditioning but we also desire routes that are designed to deter and prevent crime and improve public safety issues. Thank you for bringing the matter to my attention.
It has been 16 years when will OPD get out of federal supervision?
I would normally defer this question so as not to be confused with providing an answer on behalf of the City or OPD; however, as your Area Captain, I believe I am providing better service - in a fully constitutional manner – than in the past and that we are often setting standards of best practice when doing so as compared to our contemporaries. This is just simply not the same police department it was over 20 years ago.
That being said, there are a number of issues that continue to impact declarations of full compliance and much has to do with our ability to handle internal affairs and use of force investigations or related procedures. I would urge those interested to read about these issues in the Monitor’s monthly reports.
The clear consensus is that the intent of the settlement agreement was to address and reform the culture of OPD and that true reform would be met when cultural shifts were seen and felt. I believe– no matter the compliance finding – that this cultural change has been realized and am proud of what we have accomplished and continue to accomplish.
· The newly appointed Chief of Philadelphia was hired and trained and promoted by an OPD under settlement agreement and she was selected from a national pool of applicants as someone with the experience and character to lead that troubled department. The newly appointed Chief of Tracy CA was also hired, trained, and worked as an experienced commander and selected as that department’s leader as well. Part of our attrition problem is that our officers are desired and recruited by other departments as experienced and professional assets.
· Many of our trainings, classes, policies, and procedures are used at a national level as best practices; our approaches to implicit bias and risk management using stop data has been called unrivalled by members of the Independent Monitoring Team. We have shepherded changes that are now seen as mandatory by state law and still conduct more data collection, management, and assessment of stop data and other personnel issues than is required.
· In my opinion, staffing issues and other pressures and demands of calls for service, crime, and other mandates create obstacles to doing our best job possible to provide service. Continuing to build a larger, more robust, and better equipped police department that we feel you deserve will necessarily help us achieve compliance with our own policies. No matter what, we will continue to improve. Initiatives to improve recruiting, hiring, training, and retention are continuous.
"Property crime is not a priority," as Chief Kirkpatrick announced in January 2019. This is having a huge negative impact on all Oakland residents. What is being done to stop ignoring this type of crime?
I’m personally not aware of where this quote came from or whether it is accurate, taken out of context, etc. I can tell you that the statement is contrary to my weekly conversations with Chief Kirkpatrick regarding all crime types in North Oakland – including property crime – and that we do indeed focus on commercial burglaries, residential burglaries, auto burglaries and other grand larceny issues in Police Area 2 as priorities. It is true that as an Area Captain I often have to prioritize where, how and when public safety efforts are applied and some types of property crime do not enjoy the same level of focus and effort that homicides, shootings, robberies, and other serious and violent offenses receive. However, residential burglaries, commercial burglaries, auto burglaries, and laptop theft incidents receive a lot of attention and focus. It is not true that property crime is ignored in North Oakland or Oakland in general.
What is being done to address serious residential crime - burglary, auto break-ins, mail theft, and armed/ non-armed muggings? It seems we are left to address these issues on an individual basis with no support from police enforcement.
In 2019, your Measure Z funded Community Resource Officer participated in and initiated auto-burglary problem solving projects. We had at least four projects at various times that addressed auto burglaries and/or commercial burglaries within and near more than several business districts in Police Area 2. In order to focus efforts in locations where our time and energy would be best spent with limited resources, I prioritized no more than four locations in North Oakland for crime reduction team and community resource officer projects and operations to address burglary and robbery. Montclair Village at one time qualified as the 4th location based on auto burglary statistics but never qualified – thankfully – for a robbery location of focus. In fact, Beat 13 z had fewer robberies in 2019 than in 2018 and this is not the case for North Oakland overall.
It’s unfortunate that a lack of responsiveness or support is felt by the person who posed this question. Our actions demonstrate responsiveness but also acknowledge that robbery and burglary rates in 2019 were unacceptable. In response we have…
· Held surveillance operations for robbery and burglary suspects in North Oakland
· Crime reduction and community resource officer operations with decoys or setting surveillances on individuals and locations that were deemed high risk of active robbery or burglary activity
· Chief Kirkpatrick and Alameda County law enforcement agencies creating an auto burglary task force now underway
· Extra officers assigned to patrol high robbery and burglary locations during peak days and times or trends
· Investigative follow-up on every reported robbery (mugging) armed or not; focused video collection and follow-up investigations for detentions and arrests
· Held meetings with business districts
· Neighborhood walks, meetings, social media, and visits with prevention tips
· Community Resource Officers – in order to assist limited investigative staff – are at times primarily following up on active series, trends, or property/robbery crimes that have good leads but are not able to be fully worked by limited investigative staff in our Bureau of Investigations. At this time your Measure Z funded officers are working laptop theft arrests, grand theft suspects, and commercial burglary suspects in addition to beat projects and priorities.
· Patrol officers work each shift with the expectation that they prioritize as much time as possible on their own beat focused on the issues that impact their own beat; we are no longer only policing high crime beats relative to citywide crime stats but have been sustaining more time dispersed throughout all neighborhoods for better policing in neighborhoods like yours.
There’s inadequate police presence and/or cameras in Montclair Village. What would it take to reverse this?
Montclair Village is normally assigned a walking officer; the village has one of four officers able to walk within a business district. We have worked closely with MVA over the years to improve and sustain cameras, camera placements, and camera usage. MVA has some of the highest quality cameras in use and arguably does a better job than most in making good use of camera footage, OPD partnership, and follow-up. Perhaps because of what is being done well, MVA is not impacted by the same crime rates found in other North Oakland business districts
At times the Montclair officer has been reassigned to other parts of the city when robbery incidents have grown 3 to 5 times worse than the number within Montclair Village. I have secured the return of Officer Cooper to Montclair on a full time basis until further notice.
As a result of the Montclair laptop robbery homicide, we have met with coffee chain managers, other merchants, and other partners to address Montclair issues.
· An open and active project has been opened by the Community Resource Officer
· We are scheduling additional officers within Montclair to attend planned monthly “Coffee with a Cop” events where we will be recruiting, sharing awareness and prevention, and discussing these issues that impact community safety
· Your CRO and MVA have identified that auto burglary has succefully been reduced at the 2018 area of focus – near Lucky’s – but has moved and has increased near and at the Safeway. A project has been opened to address Safeway auto burglaries. We feel that 13Z auto burglary rates for 2020 can be significantly impacted if we can gain leverage at this one location. We are working with MVA to gain Safeway support and partnership (Officer Jurgens needs to update on the status of this work with MVA)
· All patrol officers assigned to work Beat 13 have direction to work as much of their shift as possible to be present, vigilant, and working on Beat projects and priorities which include auto burglary prevention, random patrols, walking assignments, traffic safety, and other beat priorities.
Is OPD up to ideal staffing levels yet? If not, why not? It’s been years!
We are not at full staffing but are working hard and better to get there through better recruiting, hiring, and mechanisms to achieve lower attrition. We currently have 792 officer positions budgeted but have only 729 filled. We have three academy classes set to either graduate or begin within the next 6 months and each class is expected to graduate at least 40 new officers
Please share with friends, family and neighbors that OPD is hiring!
We are working to address attrition through new and revised training standards and methods and working to improve our graduation rates from the academy and our field training program.
Changes to workmen’s comp are in effect this year to speed officer recoveries back to work and streamline the injury process for the benefit of all involved. This is expected to reduce the number of officers we have who are on payroll at any one time but physically unable to work (now at around 20 officers or so)
Can we please stop talking about what we as residents as "supposed" to be doing to prevent crime? Oaklanders pay PLENTY of taxes, and we shouldn't have to pay again by paying a security company to keep our homes safe. Our empty cars are constantly being broken into even though there's nothing to steal, and we are admonished to lock our doors and keep valuables out of sight. A finger is constantly turned to the victim with advice about what the victim did wrong. Why is the onus on us? Can city leadership please at least pretend to take some of this on their own shoulders and come up with some crime prevention and some consequences for criminals?
I understand the frustration but these reminders and prevention tips are not meant to blame anyone. To not share them would be unconscionable given the number of things we can all do to help prevent our neighborhoods from being seen and targeted as lucrative locations. For every person who is aware that bags or items of value left in a car may attract thieves, there are others who either don’t know or don’t care and continue to leave items worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars in their trunks, on seats, or under seats. For as long as some people continue to do this, others who are aware and taking precautions will continue to be targeted more often. Prevention is a necessary part of public safety and crime reduction.
It is clear that past efforts at enforcement and the arrests they produce often do not result in deterrence from future crime. Recidivism continues to be a major challenge and how to provide meaningful consequences or diversion continues to be a challenge for society as a whole. Since joining the City of Oakland, Chief Cespedes of the Violence Prevention Department, has been involved and engaged with the OPD and his teams continue to find solutions that offer opportunities for change in place of incarceration. Our Area 2 officers and teams have worked with Department of Violence Prevention staff on issues of robberies and shootings.
We work with the DA on county programs and work with special prosecutors when we feel that charges demand enhancement and extra care.
As an officer and police commander, I do not make the laws nor do I decide on sentencing. There are many factors that may influence the attractiveness of property crimes – State laws, sentencing guidelines, probation and parole decisions, and the youth of many offenders all impact property crime rates in my opinion. As law enforcement, we use the tools provided to us to prevent, investigate, and arrest when and where we can in a lawful manner consistent with policies.
(Nextdoor trending thread) Pulled up to front of Safeway @5:10pm 1/4/20 & almost got knocked over as a guy ran out full speed with arms full of stuff he robbed. I asked checkers if there was just another robbery. They reluctantly nodded yes. I asked how many there have been so far for the day and they said several. I myself have witnessed 4 in the past year even though I've reduced shopping at that more convenient. This is not ok. We all know Safeway & Lucky employees don't even report robberies anymore because they're so frequent and neither company leadership nor OPD offers remedies. I'm so fed up living like this in my own town. My basic right to safety has been taken away even though every year my parcel taxes get increased. It's obvious word is out that Montclair is the easy mark for all kinds of criminals. It was just a matter of time these constant robberies would end in tragedy like the 12/31 Montclair Starbucks theft did.
This isn’t just the case for Montclair and, in fact, Montclair has fewer of these reports than do other North Oakland business districts. Robberies overall decreased for the beat in 2019 compared to 2018.
Thieves may be gravitating to offenses that offer reward with low risk - Had we been able to stop this suspect on his way out – absent information that he used force or threatened force during the larceny, he would have received a citation for the offense. Had we observed their vehicle fleeing or later in the day or week and attempted to stop it, we are not allowed to pursue vehicles for property crimes and I highly discourage vehicle pursuits for strong armed robberies due to the risk vehicle pursuits pose to public safety and the lives of our neighbors, friends and family members.
We now have the capacity to address robberies that occur at retail establishments but are often overwhelmed with the task of following up on thefts and grand thefts. With better staffing we will have the ability to provide more investigations. At the moment, North Oakland has one assigned robbery investigator and one assigned burglary investigator for the thousands of reports we receive annually. This is why your community resource officers will be taking on a bigger role in investigative follow-up this year. Patrol officers are also being trained and expected to complete preliminary investigations that are thorough and fast in order to detain or arrest suspects as soon as possible.
We will continue to identify locations or trends where focused efforts and problem-solving an make meaningful differences. These approaches have worked in the past when our robbery rates were much higher than they were in 2019.
Councilmember Sheng Thao Questions from Town Hall
Why does Oakland continue to be a reactive city?
The day to day work being done to address issues in Oakland is not always public and often the city can seem reactive due to a sudden burst in news coverage around one event or another.
The city continues to work towards addressing staffing shortages in OPD. Prior to this tragic event, I had been in discussion with the Area Commanders for District 4 regarding policing coverage, including hosting multiple public safety town hall meetings. My office held two public safety town hall meetings and a public safety walk; all of these meetings were advertised through my newsletters, Next Door, the area Neighborhood Councils and on my social media platforms and were well attended. In these meetings we discussed how to target harden your home and/or business, what OPD is doing regarding crime and other public safety issues of concerns from the community, and how best to realize Oakland Community Policing Policy goals. To receive information regarding upcoming town hall meetings and updates, please do sign up for my newsletter by signing up here.
Is it safe to be in Oakland? Is it safe to leave your car in Oakland? Is it safe to walk in Oakland? It feels like crime is increasing, is that true?
There are definitely steps that we must take to make Oakland a safer place for everyone, and we have made improvements in the past 5 years; acknowledging that any life lost is one too many. Unfortunately, there has been an uptick in burglaries and property theft throughout the Bay Area. As with any large metropolitan city, we need to work together to deter crimes. Along with having OPD presence, as a community, let's work together to stay vigilant and implement target hardening measures for our homes/businesses/cars. If you would like to request for OPD to help with a target hardening assessment of your property, please email my office at District4@oaklandca.gov.
What is being done to address poverty and housing? Or to stop the demand for selling/buying stolen items?
As a Councilmember, I work to address the affordable housing crisis every day. I believe that as a city, Oakland must approach this crisis from every angle, including preserving currently affordable housing, protecting tenants from unfair evictions, and creating more affordable housing. I believe that the City of Oakland must also work with other cities in the Bay Area so that these goals are the responsibility of everyone, not just Oakland. Some of the ways we can work towards solving this crisis is to utilize private/public partnerships to create temporary housing for those currently unhoused; pass policies that incentivize homeowners to add and rent out ADU’s and work with our representatives in the State Legislature to pass policies and fund our innovative solutions.
The Oakland Police Department is working closely with the District Attorney and both regional and Federal to decrease the demand for stolen property. It is my responsibility to ensure that OPD has the resources available to them. Currently, OPD has a number of funded positions which are not filled. If you know anyone who is curious about a career in law enforcement, I urge you to to connect them with my office, so we may direct them to the proper resources with the Oakland Police Department. I believe it is paramount that OPD be fully staffed, specifically with Oakland residents.
How much of this do you think is “organized crime”? Are you working with OUSD for juvenile crime?
I agree with the Oakland Police Department that a strong degree of the uptick in robberies and burglaries is due to organized crime, which is affecting the entire Bay Area. I believe that targeting the illicit market for stolen goods will disincentivize these organizations from continuing to burglarize and rob: we need to take the profit incentive out of burglaries and robberies. I know that the District Attorney’s office is working on programs to try and keep youth who commit crimes from committing them again. On the Oakland City Council, the City Council allocated funding for Restorative Justice Counselors in OUSD, and also work with youth through funding from the Safety and Services Act of 2014. However, OUSD may have other programs that are being implemented as well.
Why are the OPD officer numbers disproportionate to surrounding counties?
We currently have 792 officers budgeted, and currently have 732 of those positions filled. The city is working to fill vacancies with quality officers, and some of the vacancies are due to retirement. OPD’s funding is the largest single item in the City’s budget. As we work to fund hundreds of thousands of items to try and improve the quality of life in the city we must decide where best to prioritize our resources. We hope to continue to work with OPD to expand the number of sworn officers and ensure they have the resources they need.
How can walking officers chase down suspects in cars or patrol neighborhoods up in the hills?
I will be proposing to the City Council that Community Resource Officers, funded by Measure Z, stay in their assigned police beats and provide high visibility patrols to deter burglary and theft. I will further propose to the Council that OPD prioritize patrols in and around merchant corridors, small business areas, and business improvement districts. I believe that this will send a strong message to would-be perpetrators that Oakland takes the safety of its residents seriously, and that it recognizes the uptick in robberies and burglaries and where they occur - commercial corridors. All officers have vehicles, the city understands the importance of community policing, so at certain times the officers will get out of their patrol vehicles to walk or bike corridors.
What time of day are additional patrols proposed? We are often seeing a lack of patrols in the evenings and weekends. I would like to fix that. Can we put stickers in store windows to let criminals know they are on camera?
Many businesses already place stickers letting people know they’re on camera, and we encourage all businesses to have these stickers. In regards to patrol, my proposal will urge OPD to conduct high visibility patrols in merchant corridors, and prioritize deploying Community Resource Officers to areas experiencing an uptick in burglary and robbery.
Our children do not feel safe here. They know they are not protected. Do you realize that this has already influenced their present and future health? What is Oakland doing for our children?
As a mother, I take the safety of any child extremely seriously. I’m committed to working to get new resources for the safety of our children, as a representative on the Alameda County Transportation Commission, I’m working to get funding to ensure that our children are getting toand from school safely. Moreover, the city works with non-profit agencies to work with our youth on programming, restorative justice, arts and more. I commit to continuing to work with the police department and other department heads and agencies towards keeping our children safe.
District Attorney Nancy O’Malley Questions from Town Hall
Why is one person being charged with 2nd degree theft and the other with murder?
Murder requires intent to kill or a disregard for human life. The driver of the car, Byron OJ Reed Jr., that killed the victim is charged with murder with special circumstances of death in the course of a robbery.
The second individual held the door open for the person to enter and steal the laptop from the victim. That person,Javon Eugene Lee, is charged with Involuntary Manslaughter. We allege he engaged in an unlawful act without malice that resulted in the death of Mr. Zeng,, without malice,
Was there a recent change in law affecting the charging decision?
Yes, there was a change in the law. Previously, if there was a robbery during which the person was killed, it was called “Felony Murder” which is murder created during the course of a felony that is articulated in the law. Robbery is one of those felony crimes that falls under Felony Murder. However, in 2018, Senator Nancy Skinner carried a bill that became law in 2019 that says on only the actual person who killed the victim, even if 3 people were involved in the robbery, can be charged with murder. The only way a non-killer can be charged with murder is if that person was a “Major Participant” in the crime leading to the death.
If so: what local Assembly and State Reps supported the laws?
To my knowledge, our Assembly members and Senators supported the change in the law.
What are you doing to prosecute property crimes?
Two years ago, I created a specialized Unit of prosecutors and investigators who only focus on property crimes, such as auto break-ins and cell phone or laptop thefts and the like. They also handle what we believe are conspiracies between more than one individuals to commit these crimes, so they focus on theft rings and the like.
What is your view of the impact of Prop 47 on property crime?
Many types of crimes became misdemeanors as a result of Prop 47. For many, such a people stealing food or people addicted to drugs, we were already assigning their cases to “collaborative courts” such as Drug Court or Diversion with intervention. We created a program called “Pacific Education Services” which is a program first time offenders can participate in to rehabilitate. PES has been very successful with very high success rates. The number of people in drug court has reduced since participation is solely based on the individual’s agreement to participate. WE have increased our participation in Mental Health Court which has proved to be successful
The biggest issue seen virtually across this state is retail theft rates have risen tremendously. Small and large business, such as Safeway, Luckys and others, have experience an huge increase in thefts under $950. If some steals up to $949 of product, it can only be a misdemeanor. There was a new crime created that on the 3rd offense, it is classified as “serial theft” which allows us to file a felony crime.
We want to have people get into treatment or a program to stop stealing, or breaking into cars or other crimes that affect all of us. Misdemeanor level crimes do not create enough of an incentive for some people.
What concerns me the most about many of the changes in the law is that the new laws completely disregard victims of crime. We worked very hard to create a constitutional amendment giving victims of crime several rights. But many of the new laws ignore or silence the rights of victims.
All of the legislation I have written or gotten signed into law enhance victims rights. This year, we are trying to make sure our legislators consider victims while enhancing benefits for the offenders.
As I said at the meeting, when we invest in rehabilitation for offenders, especially young offenders, we have been successful at reducing crime. Our investment in their education, programs, support and other services has help those individuals find new pathways for their lives.
But, all of the work we are doing should not be at the expense of or in disregard for the victims who are literally and figuratively and emotionally bearing the price of the crime.