Communitize DON’T Privatize!/Private Security Patrols are not the Answer

May 26, 2014

Politics, Streets, Uncategorized


Flyers are up across the Temescal asking folks to donate $157.50 for a 6 month contract for a private security car to drive by your house 3 times a day to “check in” on your house. Some other neighborhoods have also instituted this crowd  sourcing approach as a way to feel better. As much as I understand everyone’s desire (mine included) to be safe, this is exactly the wrong way to go. Pressures to sanitize are predictable when home prices continue to soar, but we are all here to live in a vibrant and urban community. It’s one of the worst scenarios possible for me and some members of the cohousing community where I live. Why do we react so strongly? It’s pitting the haves against the have nots, the neighborhoods in Oakland with mostly property owners who have expendable income against those who don’t. If successful at crowd sourcing,  $15,750 that could go to local schools or organizations.

And at a time when crime rates in Oakland are actually going down across neighborhoods?* (regardless if they have private security)

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And what does the neighborhood get for the investment? Polluting cars cruising the neighborhood night and day employing folks to do the kind of neighborhood watch we should all be doing and that I do every time I am on my bike or walking the hood. It’s not the kind of Temescal neighborhood I signed up for 17 years ago when I plucked down my blood, sweat and yes all the money I had and then borrowed some more to invest in a cohousing community in a neighborhood with a much higher crime rate than now. At its worst, it’s pushing the area I love and know best toward a “gated” neighborhood where those who aren’t recognizable as “neighbors” are a bit suspect.

Neighbor Sarah Pritchett wrote an excellent blog on the whole issue including this observation: The private security firm isn’t the only thing that lacks transparency in this process. It seems profoundly undemocratic that a few people who can afford to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign are able to decide for the rest of us who live here that private security will make us all safer. Unlike the gang injunctions imposed by the Oakland Police Department, there will never be a public hearing on the issue, no research conducted to determine if private security firms actually decrease crime.


If you think sending your money to private security companies is the wrong way to go, consider investing in our local schools and community organizations. Or feel free to provide your own suggestions in comment area below on how to invest in the Temescal, both by donating and volunteering.

To invest in your local schools and community organizations, consider these worthy causes:

• Donate to Emerson Elementary PTA

• Donate to Oakland Tech PTSA

• Donate to Temescal Street Cinema

• Donate to Oakland International High

*Shootings have plummeted 35 percent so far this year from last year. Homicides are down 18 percent (to 28 as of May 11).Robberies have also dropped significantly. There have been 1,076 so far this year – 38 percent less than this time last year. In 2012, Oakland had more robberies than any other major American city, and 2013 was even worse.  Armed robberies are nearly half of what they were a year ago.  (SF Gate, May 2014)

About Karen Hester

Karen Hester is a community activist and events coordinator who lives in North Oakland in Temescal Creek Cohousing. Her event productions website is She lives and breathes the fight to stop more billboards in Oakland and started

View all posts by Karen Hester

10 Responses to “Communitize DON’T Privatize!/Private Security Patrols are not the Answer”

  1. Paul Kagiwada Says:

    Great commentary and good ideas of where to donate your money. I’d like to add a plea not to neglect your local middle schools. Great things are happening at both Claremont and Westlake and both schools could definitely use your support. Find out more or donate at:


  2. Jennifer Ryan Says:

    Let’s support our community by being out and about. Tending our front gardens, sitting on our front porches, saying hi to and chatting with our neighbors, holding block parties. Bites off Broadway, swimming at the pool, walking and biking the neighborhood, kiddies at Frog Park, street cinema, Temescal Alley, What else do you like to do in Temescal?


  3. Dan Says:

    I don’t like the idea of private patrols either but your point that the $15,750 could be spent elsewhere doesn’t hold water IMO. $16k couldn’t buy you anything in a bureaucratic system. Lots and lots of waste and inefficiency.


  4. suzanne Says:

    I agree with Sarah Pritchett – the fact that it only takes 100 people to run this security patrol all around our entire neighborhood strikes me as highly undemocratic.

    The campaign for these patrols has been happening for how long and they
    only have 75 people signed up? Clearly there is not overwhelming support in any sense for this. There are 100s more people in our neighborhood who have abstained from participation.

    That being said, we are 25 people away from the organizers of this being able to get their program started. There was no way to vote against. Just another example of a problem with a privately led approach.

    That, plus no publicly managed (answerable) governing body to conduct oversight, makes me very uncomfortable.


  5. JacobAziza Says:

    While I generally support community, and agree its unnecessary – given that I used to have that job, allow me to offer other considerations…

    Private security tend to be way less aggressive than police. Most companies emphasize “observe and report”. Many of the guards aren’t even armed. They can not legally detain anyone, and can only arrest for a misdemeanor if they personally see it occur.
    They can deter crime, just by being around, but don’t ever give out traffic tickets.

    Creating more patrols means upper middle class people giving jobs to the mostly working class people who take those jobs. For a job that doesn’t require a degree or much special skill, they pay decent.

    Neighborhood watch vs security is a false dichotomy. When I worked as a guard for a residential area, I got to know the people there. When I was part of a neighborhood watch, I got the phone number to the local security guards. The two can support each other, and resolve problems that might otherwise require police intervention.

    Unlike with city police, the people getting protection actually pay directly for the service. Even better, its by donation, so only those who can afford it pay, yet everyone in the neighborhood benefits.
    Seems win/win to me.


  6. Carl on 49th Says:

    To Karen: For those of us who can donate money, thank you for suggesting worthy organizations, which are better ideas than sending money to security guards. My own practice is along your general lines. For example, my donations during 2013 included the Alameda County Community Food Bank, the Berkeley Food Pantry, and Church World Service’s CROP walk.

    To Dan, who said: “$16k couldn’t buy you anything in a bureaucratic system.” That’s the Oakland Police Department, where $16k (for 6 months) pays for only about 1/6 of the cost of a single police officer ($90k for 6 months).

    To Jacob, who said: “Private security tend to be way less aggressive than police.” That may be a general tendency; I don’t have statistics. However, exceptions matter. Just a few months ago, Oakland had a serious case of violent over-aggressiveness by private security that was hired by a neighborhood group. See


  7. Carl on 49th Says:

    News: The Crowdtilt website says they met their quota of 100 people committed to paying. So the patrols are going to happen, regardless of what anyone’s judgment is as to the wisdom of having the patrols.

    Continuing the discussion with Dan: Partly, you have a point. $16k won’t buy all that much. Suppose Temescal folks were to add $16k to food for the hungry. $16k isn’t enough to end hunger for 6 months, perhaps not even in Temescal, and I don’t limit my concern for hunger to those living in Temescal. But the food banks don’t waste much on bureaucracy. The main reason for hunger is wrong distribution of power: too much power in the hands of the rich, and not enough in the hands of the hungry and their allies at the food banks.


  8. lenraphael Says:

    Aljazeera America recently gave a much more balanced view of patrols than you present.

    If there are several thousand residential private patrol subscribers in Oakland, including Maxwell Park and King Estates, the actually number of people in those areas might be close to ten times that number based on participation rates in Rockridge and Temescal and King Estates. Say 25,000 on the low side, not counting visitors.

    But there has been only one negative incident come up in any media or online groups: the shooting in Upper Dimond (was not Oakmore).

    I’ll bet you a $3 Temescal doughnut to dollars that the number of complaints against OPD in the same period on a per capita basis is much higher than 1 per 25,000.

    You declaration that patrols are a result of pressure to do ethnic or economic cleansing is baseless bordering on libelous.

    You fail to distingush between privatizing which frees up public resources to provide services for all residents and privatizing that sucks resources away.

    Sending ones kids to private K-12 schools truly reduces State funding to public schools. How many of your friends and the critics of private patrols use private schools?

    Private patrols if anything free up OPD resources from property crime areas to send to areas where people are getting murdered. Is that so terrrible?

    It is no worse than say the PTA of Emerson wanted to remove the asphalt covering the garden area with use of volunteer labor. I’ll also bet that OUSD union contracts and City Charter forbid OUSD from allowing volunteers to do that even though OUSD doesn’t have tho money to do the work.

    Would you find that “privatizing” offensive the way the city unions would?

    Look at all the Measure Y polls. Voters simply don’t trust OPD or the City to spend money effectively. That’s not a result of private patrol funding crowding out public support for higher parcel taxes for Measure Y.

    Patrols are residents directly “outsourcing” some of the public safety function at a much lower cost than the 200k/cop that OPD spends. Have you ever worked to reduce what we pay police or their ridiculous overtime and disability claims? That’s serious money compared to money spent on private patrols. Money that could really make a difference if spent on effective job training programs and effective K-12 education.


  9. lenraphael Says:

    It is not accurate to say private patrol are not accountable. I’d say more so than OPD is because the complaint investigators are all civilians.

    California Bureau of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Security and Investigative Services

    (916) 322-4000 or (800) 952-5210
    Fax: (916) 575-7290
    PrivateSecurityServices@… – Private Patrol Operators


  10. lenraphael Says:

    Temescal neighborhood unarmed private patrol will starting midnight Sunday June 15th 2014 (tonght)

    Intervention Group, Inc. (IGI) will be providing unarmed patrol services for the area bounded by Telegraph to the west (but not inclusive of Telegraph), the south side of 51st, the west side of Broadway, and the north side of 40th for a 6-month trial period beginning June 15, 2014. The patrol will cover 16 hours a day (10:30am-2:30am), 7 days a week.

    Critics have made a mountain out of a molehill re Temescal private patrol. Many of the issues raised are real but hypothetical, especially concerns about profiling and abuse.

    The real mountain of policing abuse in Oakland is OPD. They all carry guns and their is no strong civilian review and discipline process.

    People concerned about poilce abuse, regardless of their position on private patrols, to sign the PUEBLO petition asking the City Council to create a ballot measure that would institute a Public Safety Oversight Commission similar to what SF and NYC have. An email to your council member and council member-at-large Kaplan would help too.

    Patrols are benign compared to sending one’s kids to private K-12 school. I understand and criticize people for doing so, but make no mistake that deprives public schools of approximately 15,000/year for each private school student.

    Compare that to patrols. Even if you assume that the $300/year a resident could spend on that would otherwise have gone to a local charity, that $300 from a couple of hundred residents pays for many more private patrol hours than the city gets from an OPD officer costing 200,000 each. Considering that every “viable” Mayoral candidate and the entire city council are all hell bent on hiring at least 200 more police, more private patrols are the only hope we have of convincing the politicians to do a better job of policing with the cops OPD now has or negotiate large reductions in OPD compensation.

    Private patrols save City budget money that could be spend on other vital services and programs.

    Len Raphael
    4922 Desmond St


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