If the cops don't show up, what's a worried neighborhood to do? As cash-strapped, crime-challenged cities like Detroit, L.A., Atlanta, and Oakland face continually dwindling budgets and smaller police forces, there's been a trend of both wealthier and middle-class neighborhoods banding together to hire their own private security officers to fend off crime. In Oakland, this is now the case in the Crown Ridge, Sequoyah Hills, Parkridge, Maxwell Park, Montclair, and Oakmore neighborhoods, where neighbors have formed "security councils" and hired private firms to be present where the police never are.
The move has been contagious around Oakland, where crime has soared in the last few years. Oakland laid off dozens of police officers beginning in 2009, but with violent crime rampant in the cities' lower-income neighborhoods, people elsewhere in the city have felt neglected by the OPD. Burglaries are up 40 percent in the last two years, and auto thefts are up 33 percent, as the Chron reports. Anecdotally, neighbors talked about seeing cars "casing" their neighborhoods, something which has stopped since they hired the security patrols. And you may recall this op-ed from a self-described middle-class man who described his constant, "underlying fear" about living in his city though he advocated a broad overhaul of every aspect of the city's community, rather than more policing.
For neighborhoods that want private security, it works like this: Groups of 45 to over a hundred homes pool resources and pay as little as $15 a month to get a security firm to patrol their streets for a certain number of hours per week. While the OPD and members of city government may not the fact that citizens are having to do this, they seem to welcome the added help.