Oakland Citizens Renting Their Own Cops

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With rising crime, downsized police forces, and no help in sight, some neighborhoods are dipping into their own pocketbooks to hire private security firms. The guard's job: pick up where the police cant.

The problem

Oakland California is a community that has tried to remake itself several times over the past century. Currently, it is in the middle of a perfect storm. Since 2009, the city of 400,000 has seen its full-time police force drop from more than 830 sworn officers to just 615. In the same time, not surprisingly, the crime rate has soared. In fact, since 2012, robberies in Oakland are up 24% and burglaries have increased a whopping 45%. This led to the disquieting fact that law-abiding citizens in residential areas were liable to be robbed while out and return home afterward to a burglarized home. Police response times lagged. The average response time for a burglary in progress last year was 17 minutes.

The solution

While it would be impractical for a single middle class homeowner to hire an armed, licensed, and bonded security guard to stand a post at their home, what can be done when neighbors band together can produce results. In one Oakland neighborhood, 600 homeowners agreed to chip in $20 a month through crowdsourcing to a fund for security. What they get from that is an armed guard 12-hours a day, wandering around the neighborhood, watching out for the residents and most importantly-- being seen. The guards roam the neighborhood, observing and reporting, from a marked black Crown Vic. Other, smaller groups with less in their fund are getting private patrols for as few as four hours a day, five days a week.


According to an article at SFGate.com, "It costs each of us about 50 cents a day," said Jose Durado, chairman of the neighborhood council. "As we get 45 new households to join, we get an additional hour of security." Another homeowner's association member in the same article said this about the private patrol's impact on their neighborhood.

"What we were observing was at least two to five cars a day drive through the neighborhood that we were fairly confident weren't visiting the neighborhood, but were casing the neighborhood - and that has completely stopped."

In some instances, neighbors are looking into fundraisers to help pay for their own security.


Increasing Patrol Specials?

It should be noted that Oakland is right across the Bay from San Francisco. Besides Rice A Roni, a special SF Treat since 1847 have been the Patrol Special Police. This group of about 40 unworn police officers are a citizen and merchant-sponsored neighborhood police force. They are armed, cooperate with the SFPD (including sharing radio frequencies) and patrol information, wear police-type uniforms, are vetted by the police, and have training and qualification requirements set by SFPD. Where they differ from the regular police is that these Patrol Specials are not paid by the city but rather by the merchants and homeowners, they patrol. They also have no law enforcement powers, blue lights, etc. They can and do, however, help fight and prevent crime for about $50 per patrol hour.

(Photo credit: MyParkingSign.com)

Even though the concept is going on 170-years old, Oakland, and other cities across the country, may soon be revisiting this concept of renting their own police forces.

If they can afford it

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November 23, 2013  •  10:21 PM
This is a City that rejects the idea of Constitutional established citizen militias. They are now hiring an armed police force which only answers to a Mayor.
Some one needs to study European history regarding private police units.