This meeeting was held by District Two Councilmember Pat Kernigan and District Three Councilmember Nancy Nadel's name isn't associated with it, yet the problem's in District Three. I guess Nancy's too busy running for mayor. She can balance the two, the people need her. She shouldn't worry about what they may think; just take action.
Grand Lake residents demand action
Recent slayings send area into rage over crime
By Heather MacDonald, STAFF WRITER, OAKLAND TRIBUNE
Inside Bay Area
OAKLAND — Anger, frustration and fear boiled over Thursday night as Grand Lake residents demanded city leaders get a handle on the violence that has claimed two lives in their community in recent months.
At a forum hosted by Councilmember Patricia Kernighan, the standing-room-only crowd agreed that the slaying of Sonethavy Phomsouvanhdara, 29, while he worked at Bangkok Palace on Monday night was the final straw.
"We've never seen anything like this," said Ken Katz, who has lived in the Grand Lake community for 35 years. "It scares the hell out of me."
Several residents recounted how they had been held up at gunpoint, while others said their stores on Grand Avenue and Lakeshore Avenue had been repeatedly burglarized — leaving them feeling like sitting ducks.
"It was traumatizing," said Dan Martin, who was robbed outside his front door.
The Grand Lake business district, which includes Grand Avenue and Lakeshore Avenue, is one of Oakland's most prosperous, with dozens of cafes, shops, boutiques and the landmark Grand Lake Theater.
"I understand you want to focus on the hot spots, but if you neglect the relatively healthy areas, they'll get infected, too, and the city will go to hell," saidJim Ratliff, a longtime resident.
All of the residents said the neighborhood has taken a significant downturn in recent months, and many blamed the removal of the area's walking officer for the increase in aggressive panhandling and auto burglaries, the most common crimes in the area.
"Our neighbors are afraid to go out at night," said ClaudiaSkapik of the Lakeshore Homes Association.
Kernighan, who is running for re-election, said she would continue to work to restore the walking officer to the commercial district, which was removed as part of budget cutbacks and a redeployment plan.
One of her opponents, Aimee Allison, a businesswoman and Green Party candidate, demanded the walking officer be returned to the area immediately.
"We know it makes a difference," Allison said.
Police Chief Wayne Tucker urged the crowd, which was at times hostile to the police officers in attendance, to organize themselves into Neighborhood Watch and Merchant Watch groups to help the police.
In response to Phomsouvanhdara's slaying during a robbery, police have saturated both Grand Avenue and Lakeshore Avenue with patrols and assigned a special enforcement unit to the area, Tucker said.
Since the first of the year, there have been 46 murders in Oakland — more than double the number this time last year. In addition, armed robberies are up 66 percent, and aggravated assaults are up 114 percent, according to Police Department statistics.
Although crime has been concentrated in the flatlands of East and West Oakland for decades, violence has begun to spill into communities typically considered safe.
Mark Kharmats, 46, was shot March 17 in his insurance office on Grand Avenue. Tucker said his killing was not random, calling it an "execution."
Once the department is fully staffed, which will not happen until early next year at the earliest, the Grand Lake area will get two community police officers paid for by Measure Y, which raised taxes to hire more officers and expand violence-prevention programs, Tucker said.
But the city has had difficultly recruiting and hiring officers to fill those vacancies. Recently, the council agreed to spend $2.8 million to step up those efforts in response to hundreds of complaints about the out-of-control violence.
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