Residents share crime concerns at Piedmont Public Safety Committee meeting

Piedmont’s Public Safety Committee meetings are not recorded by KCOM or available to watch via Zoom. The committee includes: Chief of Police Jeremy Bowers and Fire Chief Dave Brannigan, citizen committee members include Jeffrey Horner, Liz O’Neil, Marie Retherford, Georgina Russell, Jeanne Solnordal, and Marilyn Weber (chair). School Board member Veronica Anderson Thigpen is the PUSD representative and the City Council liaison is Conna McCarthy.

Exedra editor Holly Hanke attended this week’s two-hour meeting to hear from the police chief in the aftermath of recent violent robberies in town. A summary of the meeting — which covered more than just crime — follows:

Piedmont’s various committee and commission meetings don’t usually draw much of a crowd, but around 20 residents showed up at Thursday night’s Public Safety Committee meeting at City Hall to voice their concerns about recent strong-arm robberies in town and to hear what Police Chief Jeremy Bowers had to say about crime trends in Piedmont and surrounding areas. On Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Oakland had 100 robberies in one week this month, some of which erupted in gunfire or assaults.

Several longtime residents who spoke told the committee that they have never felt as unsafe in town as they do now. Two speakers said they would like to see money spent on more cameras and police officers. One asked what residents could to do help the police department in their investigations. A resident who witnessed the recently arrested crew of juveniles commit a violent robbery at Market Hall in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood last week wanted to understand how the district attorney’s policies might affect the outcome of the case.

Bowers had a “good news – bad news” message to share:

Five of the 12 juveniles recently arrested by the Oakland Police Department were involved in the Piedmont robberies, he said. He lauded his Oakland police counterparts, and also said PUSD’s rapid sharing of video evidence of the May 6 incidents as well as automated license plate reader data from Oakland and Grand avenues helped with the OPD investigation and in locating the car used by the suspects.

How the case unfolds is in the district attorney’s hands now, but the criminal justice system emphasizes rehabilitation over incarceration for juveniles.

“We are working in a challenging environment,” Bowers said. “We’re all frustrated,” he said, and noted that while there is always a level of dissatisfaction between police departments and a district attorney’s office, it was at a higher level now. Nevertheless, he said “we will control what we can” in Piedmont. He said the Police Department is always actively patrolling city streets but has plans to roll out a “Cop on the Block” foot patrol program soon.

(Related: DA Pamela Price to shorten prison sentences, favor probation according to leaked memo and Pamela Price wants to reshape Alameda County’s justice system; so far it’s been messy)

What you can do
  • Report crimes, even if you’ve lost faith in any follow-up. Bowers said that while he did trust Piedmont’s crime data, he did not have confidence in property crime statistics from neighboring communities like Oakland (violent crime data he said was probably more accurate because people do call if they are being physically assaulted or harmed). Not reporting property crime “lets those who should be accountable off the hook,” he said.
  • Do not confront anyone stealing catalytic converters. Thefts continue to be a problem locally and nationwide. Bowers said that suspects in the Bay Area are now more likely to be armed than in the past. Call 911: “If you call, we will respond,” Bowers said.
  • Let Piedmont police know if you have security cameras. Having that information helps officers quickly gather video evidence in the aftermath of a crime.
  • Revive Neighborhood Watch groups. Public safety is everyone’s responsibility, Bowers said.

Updates on IT security, gun violence call to action, fire season vegetation management, and school district update on Witter Field

Also at Thursday’s meeting: Assistant City Administrator John Tulloch gave a high level overview of the city’s work to protect its technical infrastructure. Bowers covered the Police Department’s gun violence prevention activities, PUSD committee member Veronica Thigpen shared information about school efforts around that effort (including trischool awareness efforts), and Fire Chief Dave Brannigan outlined his department’s plan to increase awareness around fire season.

Read about some of these initiatives here:

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