I am a homeowner in the city of Oakland.
When we purchased our house in 2012, we knew that it had been broken into 3 times within the previous 6 months. The minute we heard our realtor reading the disclosure to us—he was also reading it for the first time—I thought, “Nope. No, no, no. No way.”
But it had been a long day and we were on a tight deadline, and we had so much to consider overall… So, tired and exasperated, I said, “You know what- email it to me so I can read through it more closely later and we’ll get back to you.”
I’ll never forget reading it later that night and thinking “this sounds more like a problem with the tenants rather than the actual neighborhood. Something seems fishy…”. We also cross-referenced this information by looking up police reports filed by people in the area for car break-ins, thefts, residential break-ins, etc.. There were maybe a couple of other car break-ins in the immediate area, but nothing else. It really just looked like there was something wrong with this house, i.e. these particular residents, rather than the neighborhood itself. It just didn’t seem representative of the area as a whole. So we bought the house.
Little did I know what I would soon learn in my first semester of law school—never make any assumptions. Just look at the facts. Nothing more, nothing less.
We moved in on the 28th of June and our anniversary was just a couple of days later. We celebrated by adopting ‘his & her’s’ puppies—two 20lb hound pups.
Just a couple of days later we were broken into. Around 9am. While my husband was home.
My car had been parked in the driveway, but I had left for school, and it turned out the back door had been left open with only the metal security door closed, but unlocked. And our wooden fence/side gate area didn’t have a lock on it yet either (just one of those latches you commonly see on a side gate to one’s yard). So two young men walked right into our yard, opened our back door, and proceeded to *try* to come into our house (presumably to steal stuff). However the back door leads into a laundry room where there is yet another door that leads into the rest of the house. Our two 20lb pups immediately took action—barking and barking and barking and barking. The two young men grabbed a couple of 2x4s from the laundry room (soon to be constructed into shelving for the new house) and tried to push our pups back with it, but the little 16 week old pups held fast.
Husband, who was still in bed, groggily thought they were making a commotion because I had come home, but he soon realized the commotion was coming from the back of the house, not the front. My tall, tattooed husband sprang out of bed, still in his boxers, walked into the kitchen where he saw the two 2x4s poking through the door, and slowly walked toward the door. He then yanked the door open and yelled, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE.”
The two young boys bolted. Husband had clearly startled the shit out of them. They were probably expecting an empty house since my car had pulled out of the driveway only moments earlier. Husband said they couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18… 20 tops, but more than likely they were just teenagers.
He called the police, filed a report—feeling kind of shitty having to give the description “two young black males”—and we let all of our surrounding neighbors know what had happened.
1. When Husband asked the officer what he recommended we do to increase our security, the OPD officer said “Well, we’re really not supposed to say this, but you should probably just get a gun.”
My husband and I are staunchly anti-gun. No thank you.
2. Upon talking to our neighbors we found out that everyone was stunned that someone had bought the house. It’s recent history was well-known, and furthermore, break-ins had been common in the area since around 2009/2010. (Gee, I wonder why…?) #economicmeltdown
So that was great to hear.
Anyways, this happened when we first moved in and it’s been almost 2 years since without any issues except for the time one of our dogs got out, and the current issue of some decent-looking, yet insane, middle-aged man following my husband and I around just to harass us.
*Long story short: This man almost plowed into my mother-in-law’s car while she was taking us to the airport two weeks ago—he did not obey a stop sign and she was making a left turn. Husband gave him the middle finger. The guy ended up following us to the airport just to get out of his car and yell, “YOU GOT SOMETHING YOU WANNA SAY?!,” and try to take our picture. We got a picture of his license plate. Almost two weeks later this man somehow followed us to our HOUSE. As I was bringing in groceries, he stopped right in front of our house, made eye contact with Husband, then drove away. I called the police.
The issue of one of our dogs getting out was also a major concern for me. You see, I’m from Venice. (CA) When I was a kid I learned to always keep the car doors locked while you were in it because of car-jackings, and to keep a close eye on your dogs and people walking through your neighborhood because of a rash of dog poisonings. People just throwing rat bait or some shit over fences to kill dogs, for no apparent reason. In Oakland, I get to add to this the concern that someone may try to poison my dogs for an actual reason—to be able to break into my house and steal stuff. Not to mention, there is also the added concern of people stealing dogs to either use them for fighting, or as bait dogs. (Also, one neighbor claimed to have seen an almost full package of hot dogs right next to my fence the day my dog had gotten out—and right next to where he would have gotten out—so naturally that made me sick with worry) So, with all of that said, I really really really really worry about the safety of my dogs while living in Oakland. This was a nonissue in my former home of San Diego. Ah, how I miss the SoCal beach life sometimes… But I digress.
And now, the reason I’m telling you all of this…
As previously mentioned, my husband and I are homeowners. We actually have the privilege of owning a little piece of land and an actual house. It’s our property, our investment. We look forward to putting money into it, increasing it’s market value, and being a positive contributor to the overall economic growth of our little community. But it’s hard to stick with it—to stay here—with this kind of shit happening. And quite frankly, it makes me want to sell the place so we can take our investment money elsewhere.
Just yesterday Husband was talking to our next door neighbor who takes his dogs to the same nearby park we often take our dogs to, a short walk away from where we live. Apparently Neighbor was up there the other night when a lovely older lady was having a nighttime stroll and said, “yeah… this park didn’t used to be so nice. I once found a dead body up here. It’s much safer and nicer now, though, of course.” Apparently just then a ghettobird promptly appeared, shining a spotlight down on a house near them, and over the loudspeaker Neighbor heard something to the effect of “COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP. WE’VE GOT YOU SURROUNDED.” Add to this the fact that, believe it or not, I have never had to call 911 in my entire life, until living in Oakland. In just under two years I have called 911 five or six times now.
And so I repeat:
How are we—and other young professionals, and DINKs, and young families, and other perfectly nice people who just want to own property and live a nice, quiet, happy, secure life—supposed to want to buy property in Oakland and stay here? How are we supposed to contribute to the prosperity of this city’s economy if we are subjected to this madness? I suppose the answer lies, of course, in the question itself. Some of us have to stay here in order for the city to ever see it’s economy and community prosper. We 25-45 year olds are an essential component to just such a place thriving. But dammit, Oakland, why you gotta make it so hard…?