Wasserman’s speech focused on “problem solving,” “community policing,” “community engagement,” and “Neighborhood Watch.” These ideas are not new. We’ve had them in Oakland for years. Wasserman claimed, “the time is now.” Somebody needs to tell him that the time was “now” for putting a stop to Oakland’s unacceptable crime a long time ago. It was certainly “now” back in 2004, when voters approved Measure Y. It’s not like we didn’t have a plan back then. We did. It was to pour $20 million a year into violence prevention programs, and to hire 63 new officers to increase staffing to 803, and give every beat its own “problem solving/community policing” officer. We were told that if we approved the plan, crime would go down. We liked the plan, and we voted for it. Then, as usual, the City didn’t follow through. We got the promised staffing for less than 6 months. For that brief period, lo and behold, crime actually did go down. But then the City laid off 80 officers, refused to hold new police academies, and allowed staffing to sink to the approximately 610 officers we have now. To add insult to injury, the number of problem solving officers was cut in half. Surprise, surprise, crime skyrocketed.
So how can Wasserman, or any of the City officials sitting there with their eyes glazed over, really believe he is proposing anything new? He’s not. Worse yet, he barely even acknowledged the tremendous understaffing issues. He mentioned that the biggest targets for residential burglaries are houses that were just burglarized not long ago, because the bad guys know there’s a nice brand new TV in there. So he was proposing intense surveillance of recently burglarized houses. Oh really? Where are the resources for that going to come from? Our current force doesn’t even have time to respond to 911 calls, let alone do surveillance.
Even though Wasserman emphasized the need for “community involvement” at every opportunity, neither he nor the City officials present appeared to be that interested in actually hearing input from the audience. Dozens of people filled out question cards, and others wanted an opportunity to ask questions verbally. But Quan monopolized most of the limited time left bloviating about her great relationship with the “White House” and name dropping other federal officials. Most people left with their questions unanswered, and little if any detail on what type of changes might actually be in store. What a disappointment.