The Sacramento Police Department is deploying more than 30 additional officers to Oak Park this Fourth of July weekend after a spate of violence spurred City Hall to demand more enforcement in the neighborhood.
Violent crime is up slightly in Oak Park this year, mirroring a citywide trend. There have been four homicides there this year, including the shooting death of a 19-year-old man on Wednesday night. Last weekend, a pregnant woman was shot less than a half-mile from Wednesday’s homicide; her labor was induced and both she and her baby are expected to survive.
Police Department spokesman Sgt. Bryce Heinlein said it does not appear those shootings – or two separate homicides in recent weeks – are related.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg met with neighborhood pastors before leading a walk through the area Friday night with faith leaders, school board members and other community leaders. A barbecue is scheduled for Sunday at McClatchy Park and the neighborhood community center will be open for extended hours through the weekend.
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“We are going all-in to engage, support and protect the Oak Park community,” Steinberg said. “Oak Park has come way too far to turn back. There is too much pride, too much progress and too much community that’s been built in a positive way to allow all of that progress to go back.”
About 100 Oak Park residents joined the mayor, pastors and other community leaders on the march through the neighborhood. Marchers carried signs reading “Stop the Violence” and knocked on doors to try and ease the fears of neighbors troubled by recent incidents.
“We are out here with one agenda, to stop the gun violence,” said the Rev. Anthony Sadler of Shiloh Baptist Church, where the marchers met before heading out into the neighborhood.
Tamika L’Ecluse, the vice president of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association, said, “The community is rattled. I think people are more aware and more alert.”
Asked if she thought neighbors would rally to stop the violence, she responded, “We always do.”
Police officials said enough police would be left to patrol the rest of the city, even though the Sacramento Police Department is among the most understaffed big city law enforcement agencies in the state. The officers being assigned to Oak Park are from specialty units such as SWAT and the gang enforcement unit.
“Obviously we’d always love to have more officers and our officers are spread thin,” Heinlein said. “But we’re going to dedicate our officers where they are needed most at the time.”
Heinlein said the surge in Oak Park – along with a boost in staffing in the central city – won’t impact the patrol presence in other parts of the city. Councilman Steve Hansen on Tuesday requested more officers in the central city in response to what he has described as an increase in crime.
Steinberg said “the rest of the city is fully protected.”
“We wouldn’t (add officers to Oak Park) if we couldn’t ensure complete coverage in the rest of the city,” he said.
The department spokesman said officers who had not been scheduled to work this weekend will be assigned to Oak Park.
While recent budget decisions by the City Council have added some officers to the department’s ranks, the agency’s staffing level is still far below what it was before the recession. The department has 671 officers today; its staffing peaked at 804 cops in 2007.
The department has about 1.3 officers per 1,000 residents. Of the 10 largest cities in California, only San Jose, Anaheim and Bakersfield have fewer officers per 1,000 residents, according to data compiled by the FBI.
Much of South Oak Park is in the unincorporated area of Sacramento County and patrolled by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. That agency is also increasing its presence in the area.
“We have been and will continue to add resources in the way of specialized teams to saturate the area and are aware of the issues,” said Sgt. Tony Turnbull, the sheriff’s spokesman. “We ask the community to assist in reporting crimes or suspicious activity.”