Oakland Residents Hire Private Security Over Lack of Police

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Oakland Police Department doesn't have enough manpower to patrol all neighborhoods. Residents in response are hiring private security. Cheryl Hurd reports. (Published Thursday, Sep 19, 2013)

    Oakland on Friday will be graduating its second academy of new police officers this year. The city also will receive a $4.5 million federal grant to hire more police officers.

    But even as new officers are on their way to help patrol the city, some residents are turning to private security.

    Timothy Wiley Sr. patrols the Oakland Hills for VMA Security. Residents in the area are not used to seeing crime.

    "Just the need for people to feel safe in their own backyards, safe in their own front yards," Wiley said. "They want to be able to come out and walk their dogs."

    Elizabeth Caprini, general manager for VMA Security, points to recent developments in Oakland as to why private security services are needed.

    "There's been break-ins while people are sleeping," she said. "There's loitering, there's prostitution, there's drug dealing."

    And there was a fatal shooting in the area back in April, which got the attention of resident Bob Wright.

    "Police aren't going to show up for an hour or two and they're not responding to burglar alarms, and if they are they are responding very slowly," Wright said.

    Residents said they are willing to spend $20 a month to hire companies like VMA Security to patrol their streets, come to their homes in a timely manor and respond to alarms.

    That's something Oakland police do not have the manpower to do.

    VMA General Manager Elizabeth Graham tells NBC Bay Area a minimum of 100 homes are required to participate to have their own dedicated patrol officer. Each area may include multiple neighborhoods, Graham said.

    Although some of VMA Security's 150 employees are armed, unlike police, not everyone who works for the firm carries a firearm.

    Oakland on Tuesday received federal funding to hire 10 officers for three years. City officials admit they need more police.