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Oakland sends more officers into its neighborhoods

In response to the rising homicide rate, now up to 122 for 2006, the City Council has given Oakland’s police chief until Jan. 31 to send 28 officers into Oakland’s toughest neighborhoods.

The areas are determined based on need, i.e. 911 calls. Public Information Officer Roland Holmgren confirmed that problem-solving officers will be sent into the city. Problem-solving officers specialize in problem solving for a specific area. They attend community meetings in order to keep in touch with the community.

Because of Measure Y, a measure to add 43 community policing officers to the force in order to fully staff all of the 57 community policing beats, the police chief now has more officers to deploy. Measure Y allows the Oakland Police Department to have more problem-solving officers as well, Holmgren said.

Although there are differing opinions of the deployment of officers into the roughest neighborhoods of Oakland, “The police chief is allowed to move officers if need be,” Holmgren said.

The question of the degree of need is the subject of debate. First semester junior transfer student Heather Lewellen grew up in San Francisco and has just started living on campus. “I’m very concerned about how high the crime/homicide rates are in
Oakland this year because compared to past years, these rates are at their worst,” Lewellen said.

Although Lewellen said that she doesn’t entirely feel safe in Oakland and avoids using the bus system, she said she believed that sending officers into the worst neighborhoods of Oakland should be a last resort at best. “We need more people, places and things in terms of crime prevention,” Lewellen stated.

Senior Diana Galbraith also said she believed alternative measures of crime prevention should be taken. “I think what should happen with regard to the ridiculously high crime rate is to recall the National Guard from Iraq and post them in strategic positions around Oakland until crime has somehow abated,” Galbraith said.

Galbraith herself, having seen crimes taking place in Oakland and heard gunshots from Ethel Moore, said she believed that adding more police to the streets is just a “Band-Aid solution.”

“The federal government needs to give Oakland as much money as it needs to create a safe environment,” Galbraith said.

Chenelle Simington, freshwoman class president, disagreed. “I live in Oakland and I feel 100 percent safe. I have not yet gone to a place where I felt uncomfortable or as if something bad could happen,” Simington said.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Simington said nothing in Oakland has come close to making her feel unsafe. “I travel a lot in the Bay Area, even in some rough spots, and I have not had any altercations, even when I had to ride the bus everywhere,” Simington said.

Meighan Moore, sophomore, was born and has lived in different part of Oakland. “I hear people saying how bad Oakland is all the time, but Oakland has some wonderful areas. For instance, there’s the Grand Lake district, Chinatown, Jack London Square, Rockridge, Montclair and the Temescal district,” Moore stated.

Although Moore said she was unsure of what to think about the recent homicide rates in Oakland, she still said that feelings are overexaggerated.

“I think many of the people who talk about all of Oakland being dangerous have never actually gone into Oakland,” Moore stated.

While opinions differ on whether or not there is a need for police officers to be sent into Oakland, Holmgren confirmed that deployment will be happening if and where necessary.