Every Block for Themselves in Oakland

“Crowdfunded security in Oakland — It is every block for themselves just like Judge Dredd,” the Next Big Future blog notes:

Oakland has an understaffed police department and is the city with the highest robbery rate* in America. In the last few weeks three separate campaigns have been started on Crowdtilt in order to fund four months of private security patrols in three different section of Rockridge. Near $35,000 have been raised so far, and two of the three projects have raised enough funds to ensure they will move forward.

“We shouldn’t have to do this,” says Steven Kirsh, who is running the last of the three Rockridge campaigns, “but we need to do this.” He doesn’t see the Oakland Police Department suddenly getting more resources, so in order to protect his belongings, family and property value, the $82 per household doesn’t seem like much to ask, for 12 hours of patrolling five days a week. For a four month trial it will work out to less than a dollar a day.

Krish is also hoping that the relative cheapness of private security in Rockridge might opens the door to “educate other people if they’re not aware of this sort of model.”


I’m not sure if it “educated” me, but the above story certainly reminded me of another perpetually leftwing-run city that also “unexpectedly” has its own burgeoning private security industry:

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And I know I mentioned Richard Fernandez’s take on Detroit earlier today, but it’s worth another link, since we’re talking about the city itself here:

Megan McArdle despite her long career as a pundit never quite “got it” until she looked at the Detroit pension plan. McArdle wondered why the pension trustees were handing out “bonuses” to the recipients when all investment logic demanded that the funds in their care be reinvested. Being a logical and decent person McArdle cast around for an explanation without success.

I literally slapped my forehead while reading some of the explanations that the trustees offered for their behavior. The spokesman for the trustees has the nerve to complain about the actuary’s report that outlines these wild deviations from sanity. Here is how she justified draining the pension fund assets:

She said that the trustees were administering benefits that had been negotiated by the city and its various unions and that they had established an internal account to set aside “excess earnings” that would cover the cost. She said it was appropriate for retirees to benefit from market upturns because they had paid into the pension fund, so their own contributions had generated part of the investment gains.

“People were having a hard time, living hand-to-mouth, and we thought we would give them some extra,” Ms. Bassett said.

It does not seem to have occurred to Ms. Bassett, or the other trustees, that people would have a very hard time when the pension that they were depending on went up in smoke.

Then she got it, like a light coming on in her head. The pension trustees were draining the pension because they were so sure, so absolutely certain that the taxpayers would have to refill the pot they felt safe helping themselves to whatever they wanted. She wrote:

they were thinking the pensions would have to be paid, one way or another. After all, it’s in the Michigan State Constitution. So they could pay out bonuses, please various constituencies, and then force the city or the state to make them whole when it all came tumbling down.

What could go wrong? To everyone’s amazement something completely unprecedented happened: City Hall went broke. “They didn’t reckon with the possibility that the city would simply run out of money, and the state would decline to step in, leaving them with no deep pockets to make up for their mismanagement.” And so the Detroit pension is bust unless they find something they can siphon off to replenish it.


I’m sure Coleman Young thought his vision of Detroit could go on forever. But Detroit and Oakland each build on Marget Thatcher’s famous observation that “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money” — the problem with socialistic and poorly run cities is that the money runs out as more and more people leave for safer territories.

See also: Possible return to the Bad Old Days in New York City.

* Considering that Oakland’s government is led by the mayor who coddled and appeased Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and promoted an “Introduction to Lockpicking” adult community education course earlier this year (no, really), no one should be surprised that their private property is unsafe there.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage assembled from multiple Shutterstock.com images.)


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