Mayor’s Message on Thefts and Public Safety

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft

Mayor’s Message on Thefts and Public Safety

Lately I’ve heard from many residents who are concerned with increased traffic violence and crime in Alameda. The City Council shares these concerns. Here’s what’s happening and how the city is responding.

We’re driving too fast, sometimes when impaired or distracted. Whether pandemic-related, the result of fewer police officers on the street, or both, the consequences of unsafe driving can be deadly. In 2021, four people were struck and killed by drivers on Alameda streets. On the last night of 2021, a drunk driver ran into several (fortunately unoccupied) parked cars on Shore Line Drive. Unfortunately, this trend has continued into the new year. January saw four separate incidents where pedestrians or bicyclists crossing the street in crosswalks were struck by cars. Two collisions involved schoolchildren on their way to school. Also last month, a driver ran a red light on Park Street and struck a motorist, sending her to the hospital and causing the Park Street Bridge to be closed temporarily. Another reckless driver struck a (luckily empty) parklet on Park Street.

Alameda Police Chief Nishant Joshi reports that he has hired more police officers and will increase the number of officers on the street soon. He will also introduce a Community Resource Unit focused on traffic, crime trends, and community outreach that will work to reduce these incidents.

Additionally, the city has implemented measures to slow automobile speeds on streets with high accident rates, including lane reduction and the addition of bike lanes or cycle tracks. Projects have been completed on Otis and Shore Line drives, and part of Clement Avenue, and work will begin on Central Avenue in the near future.

In the meantime, Joshi offers these tips to be a safer driver: 1) Never drive while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or medication. 2) Pay attention to your speed and avoid distractions. 3) Don’t drive faster than is safe for existing conditions. If the sun is in your eyes or if it’s a foggy morning, 25 mph may be too fast. If you can’t see, pull over.

Residents are also reporting catalytic converter thefts, porch package thefts, and auto break-ins. These topics were addressed at a webinar on “Organized Property Crime,” presented by CalCities (League of California Cities’ new name), that Assistant City Manager Gerry Beaudin and I recently attended. We learned what elected officials and law enforcement officials around the state are doing to reduce crime in their communities, including using technology to solve and deter crimes. Some examples:

For porch thefts, some cities are partnering with UPS and FedEx that have their own investigation bureaus and provide “bait” boxes equipped with GPS-based video and audio surveillance capabilities to solve and deter these crimes.

To address catalytic converter thefts, many cities are employing low-tech solutions, including encouraging residents to have their catalytic converters engraved with some identifying information. Local auto shops may be willing to do these engravings for free, and Joshi recommends using the last eight numbers of your VIN (vehicle identification number).

The chief also offers these tips to help prevent auto burglaries: 1) Lock your car when you fill your gas tank. 2) Change key fob setting to only unlock the driver’s door when you approach your vehicle. 3) Don’t leave your purse, laptop, backpack, or anything of value in your vehicle when you park. 4) Don’t keep your auto registration, auto insurance information, or garage door opener in your car.

While there has been a national increase in these kinds of incidents, I believe we have the ability, and obligation, to resolve them locally.

Unfortunately, there has also been a recent increase in domestic violence in Alameda. Family Violence Law Center Executive Director Erin Scott recently reported to the City Council that, from July to November 2021, Alameda saw a 45% increase in domestic violence cases over the same period last year.

Domestic abuse can take many forms, including blaming you for the anger and abuse and saying that everything is your fault; keeping track of how you spend your time; discouraging your relationships with family and friends; preventing you from working, attending school or going out; controlling your finances; and threatening to kill themselves, or someone you care about, if you leave them. If you think you may be a victim of abuse, call the Family Violence Law Center‘s 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-947-8301.

And, some good news: On Jan. 29, the city hosted a successful booster clinic at Mastick Senior Center where, in four hours, 318 booster shots were administered to individuals ranging from 12 to over 90 years old. Huge thanks to Alameda County, Haller’s Pharmacy, and Mayor’s Vaccine Task Force volunteers for making it happen!

Stay Safe, Everyone! Drive Safe! Be Alameda Strong!