Meeting Focuses on East End’s Crime
Folks living in the Fernside District packed Edison Elementary School’s gymnasium last Friday to vent their frustrations about a major uptick in crime on the city’s East End. Some 120 neighbors joined every member of the City Council at the confab. Captain Lance Leibniz and Lieutenant Wayland Gee represented the Alameda Police Department (APD).
Neighbors asked for an explanation from the city, and particularly from Leibniz and Gee, as to why APD was doing nothing about the recent crime wave. Neighbors focused on what they considered the epicenter: a homeless encampment next to the Bridgeside Shopping Center along the abandoned Union Pacific (UP) Railroad tracks that enter the city over the Fruitvale Bridge.
Neighbors explained to the police and the Councilmembers that these alleged thieves were making their way across Fruitvale Avenue and adjacent field, sneaking through a cut in the fence, and helping themselves to whatever wasn’t nailed down in their neighborhoods. The neighbors said that calling APD had little effect. “Dispatchers treat callers like they’re stupid,” one neighbor told Leibniz and Gee.
Leibniz explained that these dispatchers handle thousands of calls each year. He advised against calling about a suspicious person. “Actions are suspicious, not people,” he said.
When Gee pointed out no violent crime had been reported in the neighborhood. Two audience members responded in unison, “Not yet.” Another neighbor said that she no longer felt safe going out at night.
Leibniz told the audience that APD’s hands are tied. “Search-and-seizure laws do not allow us to frisk people and tell them to move along,” he said. The law also doesn’t allow police to enter a homeless camp and gather up and discard belongings without proper notice.
A solution evolved that focused on the railroad encampment. Councilmember Frank Matarrese said that the city should go after the railroad for creating a public nuisance. He also said that with the threat of disease from these encampments the city might consider adding “creating a public hazard” to the mix.
“Let’s take up a piece of advice from the APD regarding reporting conditions and initiating calls for service,” one of the neighborhood leaders emailed the group after the meeting. “Call UP police about the homeless encampment in question.
UP takes trespassing and occupancy of its property, especially trackway and right-of-way intrusions seriously, regardless of the status of the track or right-of-way,” he wrote. “They don’t like liability exposure, especially when they are put on notice. Think of making these calls as our ‘bottoms-up’ approach.”
Call (800) 848-8715 and hit option 1. Tell the dispatcher that you are reporting an active intrusion and occupancy of the track and right-of-way at Blanding Ave. Spur: M.P. 10.50C DOT #749677M. Do not say “homeless encampment.” Always ask for an incident number. Do not accept the dispatcher saying: “We’re aware of this problem.” If you forget to ask, note the date and precise time of your phone call and keep a record.
Union Pacific has sworn peace officers in California, no different than APD, but they primarily enforce the law on Union Pacific property. Your calls to Union Pacific police are important for this process to work. Continued calls will bring this to the attention of UP police brass. Don’t forget to insist on obtaining an incident number.