Public Comment

Open Letter to City Attorney McKinney Re West Berkeley Crime

By Jon Alff
Friday February 08, 2013 - 04:45:00 PM

Dear Ms. McKinney,

I have lived in West Berkeley for more than 18 years. I am proud of my neighborhood and have been active with my neighbors on many local projects over the years. I write you with deep gratitude for your work regarding the problems originating at 1722 Ninth Street, which is barely a block from my home.

As you know, the area has been subject to disturbing crime for years. Most of the crime originates with or involves several local properties. Everyone - residents and the Police - knows where the crime comes from. Drug houses, such as 1722 Ninth Street, and apartment buildings, such as 1011 Delaware and 1726 Tenth Street (and others), have been the primary sources of our problems. These properties have supported major drug dealing, prostitution and violent domestic situations on an ongoing rotating basis for decades. Each time something horrible happens there is a flurry of 'action'. Then everything quiets down only to return the same horrible problems once again.

Yesterday, people associated with the apartment building at 1011 Delaware Street endangered us for the second time in less than a year. Once again shots were fired. This time someone, highly suspected of drug and gang involvement, died. Thankfully, the bullets did not hit anyone else. Of course, these problems are not limited to West Berkeley - they are all over Berkeley. 

We do not live in a ghetto. We do not want to live with the crime that evermore unfolds in front of our homes. This is too much, we are desperate. We cannot solve these problems by ourselves. Many are afraid to speak up for fear of retribution. Others are willing to step up to the task but are overwhelmed at the bewildering complexity of the problem and the City's tradition of inaction. 

While I am very glad to hear of progress regarding 1722 Ninth Street, mostly at your behest, I remain profoundly alarmed at the ongoing problems that remain. Simply put - we need a broader approach to crime. Putting a finger in the dyke will not work. We need to address each problem property as a group, not piecemeal and partially from time to time. 

It is time to act. Yesterday's death might well have been prevented if we had joined forces to fight crime at these properties months or years ago. What can we do? How can you and the City Attorney's office help us? We are beyond community meetings. We are looking for solutions, solutions that involve real and decisive actions against criminals and the owners of problem properties. Failure to punish those doing or supporting crime has to stop. I and my neighbors wait eagerly for any and all opportunity work with you, the Police and the City to defend our neighborhood.