Berkeley and Oakland Police have apprehended nearly all the suspects connected to a series of violent shootings along the South Berkeley-North Oakland border earlier this year, according to officers interviewed after a regional crime prevention meeting Friday.
“We got almost all the main players in custody,” said Berkeley Police Patrol Captain Doug Hambleton. Berkeley and Oakland Police had made approximately 28 arrests in the area during the past three months, he said, charging the suspects with a variety of offenses including parole violations, drug felonies, weapons possession and felony assault, he said.
Recent cooperation between Berkeley and Oakland police provided a central theme for the meeting of the East Bay Public Safety Corridor Partnership, a 10-year-old organization that aims to pool resources and coordinate policies across city and county lines to help prevent crime.
Panelists including Oakland Police Chief Richard Word and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates stressed that regional cooperation was increasingly vital in tough economic times.
“In lean budgetary times, we cut technology so our people become less efficient. We cut training so our people become less competent,” Word said.
Regional cooperation is especially crucial for Berkeley, Capt. Hambleton said, because around 64 percent of those arrested for robbery in Berkeley live in other cities—most commonly Oakland or Richmond.
He and other top cops from cities along the I-80 corridor from San Pablo down to Oakland are pushing a data management system that would allow police instant access to a suspect’s records from any city within the corridor.
“If someone is stopped in Oakland, we should know if the week prior he shot someone in Richmond,” Word said in an interview after the panel discussion. “Right now, I don’t know unless I call.”
Berkeley and Oakland police communicate on different radio frequencies, leaving most Berkeley officers unable to monitor OPD radio reports and vice versa.
Alameda County doesn’t have the technology to bridge the frequencies, so both departments recently purchased radios tuned to each other’s frequencies so patrol cars serving the South Berkeley-North Oakland border can communicate in their effort to fight violence.
Word said OPD and BPD officers often rode in the same patrol cars this summer to give colleagues tips about the hot spots in their beats, and this fall, they say, investigators are cooperating more closely.
For the time being, according to residents near the border, the tactics have worked.
“Right now things are calm again,” said Ozzie Vincent, a member of the South Berkeley Crime Prevention Council.
But members of the council said that even as Berkeley Police begin to communicate more effectively with their Oakland counterparts, the department is still failing to keep residents well informed.
“Oakland officers let citizens develop organizations a heck of a lot better than Berkeley officers,” said Osman, who—although he lives in Berkeley—belongs to a North Oakland crime watch e-mail group that gets updated crime data and puts residents in immediate contact with beat officers and supervisors.
“We’ve invited Berkeley Police to go to the Oakland groups to see how they work, but [the BPD] won’t come,” Osman said. “If there is a murder or drug problem the police are very effective at coming in and taking care of the problem, but they don’t give us much feedback.”
Interviewed after the crime conference, Berkeley Police Chief Roy Meisner said he wasn’t sold on e-mail groups like the one that has sprouted in North Oakland and referred a reporter to beat-by-beat crime statistics available at the BPD’s website.
Those statistics, however, aren’t nearly as current as the comparable data available to the Oakland e-mail group.