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#Occupy Oakland: 911 Is a Joke in Our Town

Police raided the latest Occupy Oakland encampment in West Oakland this evening around 5 PM. Occupiers were handcuffed, led out of the fenced camp, then cited and released. The bleak dirt lot they chose for the camp had been unused for a decade. Occupiers had researched tax records and had been unable to determine who owned the lot. OPD says the owners – who bought the property at auction in 2006 – came forward and asked that occupiers be removed.

The first tents had gone up on December 22. Occupiers had been enforcing a strict no-alcohol/no noise policy in the camp and doing neighborhood outreach,  even though the area is almost completely industrial. A total of about 20 people were quietly occupying this tiny patch of no-man’s-land and, as usual, feeding and sheltering the hungry and homeless. Approximately 25 members of Oakland’s thinly-stretched police force were dispatched to handle this insurrection. As well, numerous officers are always available to routinely harass the handful of people who are keeping up a vigil at Oscar Grant Plaza, where members of the Interfaith Group have traded in their tent for a beach umbrella (which has also been deemed an illegal structure).

Meanwhile, on the mean streets of East Oakland this past Monday evening, just two blocks from my house, a man was shot in the neck. He is expected to survive and apparently will not become Oakland’s 110th homicide of 2011. Number 109 was killed in East Oakland this past Saturday, and there were three other non-fatal shootings over that Christmas weekend as well. When the price of gold skyrocketed, robbers started snatching gold chains right off people’s necks at the Fruitvale BART station and near Lake Merritt. Refugees from the Iraq war who have been relocated to Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood say they felt safer in Basra.

Unless you are a City Council member, OPD is unlikely to respond to break-ins and burglaries that are not in progress. If you call 911 from your cell phone, you will likely get an “all lines are busy” message. If you’re lucky enough to be connected, you end up with a California Highway Patrol dispatcher, who then has to waste precious moments transferring you to OPD. My neighbor called to report a couple of suspicious men going through a woman’s purse outside his front door late one night; he had no way of knowing what may have become of the woman. OPD took his number and called him back the following morning.

Given these dire circumstances, you would think that the last thing OPD would do is tear 25 of our crimefighters away from protecting the citizens of California’s most dangerous city in order to assign them to enforce trespassing laws on an obscure vacant lot. But you’d be wrong.


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