Thursday, October 17, 2013

Private patrols in the Temescal

They are coming.  The people involved made it very clear that they plan to recruit enough subscribers to start private patrols no matter what the rest of us think about it.  They considered the other concerns a "different meeting".  

This Thursday night a meeting was called in the the same church where we hold our Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) on the subject of private security patrols.  

The room had over 100 people in it and only 4 of us were African American.  A couple of us were Asians, including the woman who led the meeting, and a couple of us South Asians.  

As you might suspect, the meeting started with an intro from the private patrol proponent and a presentation from our 2nd police district police lieutenant that both focused on getting the bad guys.  

As the  conversation opened up we learned a lot of things including that a lot of the people in the room had serious misgivings against private police patrolling our streets.  

Those in favor of the patrols kept talking about "criminals" and crime abatement.  The word "youth" was never used, nor was the word "black".  Neither group spoke to the fact that most of those arrested for burglary and robbery in Oakland are black and brown youth.  Seemed sort of like talking about sex without discussing gender or genitals.  

The first thing I learned was about the services themselves.  Bay Alarm offers a service that does not cost much, and offers at least one patrol to pass by your home each day.  Others cost more and offer more.  Some services are armed and some are not.  

Hiring private patrols is a private affair.  The subscribers do it and then their homes are patrolled.  This requires no approval from anyone.  

That includes hiring armed private patrol officers.  If you get enough subscribers together, you can put an armed guard on our Oakland streets patrolling from subscriber home to subscriber home.  Somebody out there certifies and regulates these private security companies, not our city.

As people spoke some other things came out.  

First and foremost, that there is no evidence that private patrols reduce crime.  I thought of this as a very important point.  Does it even reduce crime for the subscribers?  Sounds like something I would like to know before shelling out a monthly subscriber fee.  But we did not get to discus that much.  This meeting was to talk about doing it, not to talk about if it should be done.  

In discussion circles I made the point that we would not even be holding this meeting if the Oakland Police and Oakland programs were not such an obvious failure.  People pro and con  agreed with that.  

A few people made the point that we are inviting the conditions that lead to racial profiling.  Some questions were asked about what happens when someone gets hurt or killed.  On my post-it I wrote "ANOTHER TRAYVON MARTIN" and placed it on one of the comment boards under "concerns".  I was not the only one with that concern.  

I really doubt that some private home patrols of unarmed security will matter much one way or another.  The top crimes in our area are muggings and breaking into cars.  I have a Bay Alarm account for my business, and I know how little that can do.  

I think that the bigger picture is the disintegration of another part of government.  We have this in the schools with the rush to private schools and charter schools.  The public schools will get left behind.  

Are we headed this way for our police and social services?  If they fail at crime will the rush to private security take away interest in fixing our police and their relationship to the community?  How long before homeowners start to ask for security vouchers?  

At the very best, it will mean better security for those that pay for it and less for those who can not or will not buy in.  Don't we already have a system by which we all pitch in and hire people to keep us all safe?  

Finally the meeting broke down to some hard words between those who would like to do something about our social problems versus those who want to do something about crime RIGHT NOW.  The concerns about profiling were sharp and sharply played down by others.  

The organizer then declared that they have 50 people so far, and as soon as they have 100 subscribers they will move forward.  This meeting for her was mostly to take in community concerns with the aim of choosing a private security firm.  

The four African Americans in the room, (other than the two in uniform carrying guns) were middle aged women.  They never spoke.    

On my way out I chatted with an OPD officer who declared that he only had one more year to go and planned to retire.  He was younger than I am, and I am 55. Besides letting us know that he lives outside of Oakland, he told us how he plans to get out of California after he retires.  His idea of a good place to go was Idaho because there one is allowed to have all the weapons one would wish.  

I left the meeting stunned again by how much is wrong here in Oakland around how we deal with our at risk youth and our community as a whole.  

P.S. Many of the people who spoke at the meeting about their fear of being singled out and treated like they do not belong by these private security guards were telling us that they are trans gender.  Normally I tend to think about black and brown youth when I think of who gets profiled, but these folk spoke to another truth.  From what I understand, the numbers back up what they say. 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why am I not listening to the radio station I support?

Because they are never out of pledge drive mode and they are quite ugly at it.  I tried to listen this morning to the radio station that I support twice a year only to be told “come on people, it is time to cough up what this station is worth” and something about how much I might spend on coffee.  The tone that they take is something between petulant and accusatory and the discourse sounded like a berating for not having given enough.  There is also a pitch language that seems to treat the public as if we were all in the same place together listening to them.  A few people call in, and it is a “rally” and nobody calls and we are not getting “with it”. 

Now Denis Bernstien can be all of that any time he does a pitch and I have no idea how many listeners he has personally and permanently lost to the station, but the others don’t pitch much better.  Somehow being told how exceptional the news will be whenever we stop this fund drive by Amy Goodman, who will have dinner with me for a cool thousand dollars does not sound like a radio station reaching out to its community.

Speaking of that community, where is KPFA?  Are we doing anything to increase listenership?  Are we doing anything to bring in new voices?  Seems like I only hear from Pacifica when they want us to donate or when they are infighting.  For anyone who is paying attention the infighting is vicious and destructive.  On the one hand we here endless and misleading vitriol from the “Save KPFA” group and on the other, we have groups of people who seem to be holding on to some kind of turf.  I do not watch it close enough to know who is entrenched and how but the shows do not change much and I have no idea who some of them are reaching out to.  Serious HR practices are not being dealt with and programing seems more like a confederation of non-profits than a coherent radio station.  It seems to me that as our national government is shut down and paralyzed by two similar groups fighting for turf something not so different happens throughout US culture. 

So I switch off the radio station that I support and listen to the biased, high class version of the corporate news on KQED, which I tell people not to send money to.  Is there any wonder why my son and girlfriend both have KQED membership gifts?