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Surveillance Cameras Help Prevent Crime in Oakland


OAKLAND -- In the last few months, 40 surveillance cameras have been installed on International Boulevard and at least 80 more are expected to be mounted on businesses on Fruitvale Avenue and Foothill Boulevard to help reduce robberies, vandalism and other violent crimes and aid police in catching criminals.

Capt. Ersie Joyner said the cameras have already helped police arrest robbery suspects, including several people who were wanted for stealing gold chains and selling them for cash.

"The cameras have become part of the police department's staple of our preliminary investigations," Joyner said.

Oakland is spending about $35,000 to purchase the cameras, but police won't say exactly where they are mounted or where future cameras will be installed in order to avoid tipping off criminals.

"It's one more tool for our police department," said City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale).

There are also cameras inside businesses and more indoor and outdoor ones are expected once merchants complete the needed paperwork, city officials said.

"The idea is we have eyes on the street 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Sue Piper, Mayor Jean Quan's spokeswoman.

A September story in an online newspaper said four merchants -- a sandwich shop, a Mexican eatery, a candy shop and a jewelry store -- have weapons, either guns, knives or other weapons, in their stores for protection.

But Raul Maya, the owner
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of the Fashion Palace on International Boulevard for the past 12 years, downplayed the Fruitvale district as a war zone.

"For me, it would be ridiculous, pointing a gun like in the Old West," he said in Spanish. "I think (the guns) are the ideas of a few people, but the majority categorically deny having a gun. My message has always been that violence produces violence."

Shelly Garza, the general manager of Rising Sun Entrepreneurs in the Fruitvale, said merchants are supporting merchants in nonviolent ways to reduce crime.

"We are not vigilantes. We are positive people who want positive change in the community," she said.

At a news conference Wednesday, police and city leaders did not say how many merchants are armed.

"The Oakland Police has said people have the right to arm themselves, it's a constitutional right, but I don't think people should be afraid," De La Fuente said.

Maya and others worry that people now fear coming to the Fruitvale district because some merchants are armed and because of the high-profile slaying of Otaez Mexicatessen restaurant owner Jesus "Chuy" Campos earlier this year. Campos, the past president of the Fruitvale Merchants Association, was shot to death as he opened his International Boulevard restaurant on the morning of April 8.

Surveillance cameras have been successful in reducing crime in Chinatown, said Carl Chan, the chairman of the Chinatown Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council.

The video cameras were installed following two violent crimes downtown last year. Tiansheng Yu, 59, of San Francisco, died after being knocked to the ground confronting two young men who'd mugged his son. Jinghong Kang, 45, who had flown into Oakland for a job interview at Google, was mugged of $17 and then killed by a man and a woman.

There are roughly 100 cameras outside on Chinatown businesses, including banks, and more inside some businesses, Chan said.

"Close to 40 to 50 percent of businesses have cameras," he said.

There is also a camera system in the Lincoln Square Recreation Center, he said. The community raised money to buy the cameras, which cost about $15,000, he said.

"The merchants themselves feel very confident that it's going to be improving the business district, and residents and customers feel the same way," Chan said. The cameras have already helped police catch vandals who clog merchant's locks with glue, slash tires and vandalize businesses.

In the Oakland hills, Councilmember Libby Schaaf (Laurel-Montclair) is looking to the Oakland Police Foundation to establish a fund for donations to buy cameras for low-income homeowners who are willing to mount cameras on their homes. There are already Neighborhood Watch signs in the area, where cameras could be placed, but this will be an extra deterrent, she said.

Source: The Oakland Tribune


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