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Oakland Police Out to Lunch?

We don’t like to assume anything, so when a Latitude 38 reader sent us a photo of Oakland’s two police boats pulling into Sam’s in Tiburon on Friday, we didn’t want to assume they were there for lunch. It could be that they were on important police business. On the other hand, the reader sent us the photo knowing we’ve been covering the rising level of crime on the Estuary and the increasing number of crimes reported that go unanswered by the Oakland police.

Oakland Police at Sam's in Tiburon.
The Oakland Police arrived around lunchtime at Sam’s in Tiburon.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Reader

Despite video, photographs and physical evidence of stolen property next to illegally anchored-out boats, the Oakland police have been unable to respond to the satisfaction of those currently being affected. At their own personal risk, yacht club junior program managers and individuals have had to rescue their stolen boats, some already vandalized and stripped, from the perpetrators. Others report feeling unsafe trying to sleep aboard their boats at night. Boats, businesses and dock boxes have been broken into and vandalized.

Oakland Estuary advocate Brock de Lappe attended last Wednesday’s BCDC hearing on anchor-outs and commented, “There could not have been a greater, or more disheartening, dichotomy than what occurred at yesterday’s (August 23) BCDC Enforcement Committee meeting. The City of Sausalito and the RBRA (Richardson Bay Regional Authority) provided detailed presentations on their efforts to remove anchor-out vessels from Richardson Bay, with buyback programs and onshore housing subsidies. By contrast, no Oakland representative even bothered to attend the meeting, a complete slap in the face to a very concerned public.

“At a February 2022 BCDC meeting on this matter, a specified direction was presented that required the ‘removal of anchor outs and shoreline encampments within one year or by the end of February 2023.’ Oakland has ignored this very specific direction with apparent impunity.

“The boating community and liveaboard residents on the Oakland Estuary made it clear that the current state of lawlessness is absolutely intolerable.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the rising crime and the BCDC hearing, including comments from Outboard Motor Shop owner Craig Jacobsen, who described the thieves stealing life rafts and tools to take to their flotilla anchored out on the Estuary.

“It’s almost like the Wild West,” Steve Meckfessel, managing investor at Marina Village Yacht Harbor in Alameda, told the Chronicle.

As the RBRA on Richardson Bay has shown, solutions will always be controversial, but it is more than a policing issue. While reducing crime and threat to individuals is the first course of action, the agencies need to both hold individuals accountable and help find appropriate housing solutions for the illegal anchor-outs. Beyond the risk to individuals’ life and property is the environmental contamination on the Bay from the anchor-out community. People row, swim, paddle and play in these waters while, below the surface, sealife struggles to survive.

Often lost in the discussions of lawlessness, crime, homeless populations, anchor-outs and other ailments of the Estuary, is the vision of what a peaceful, restored and clean waterway would look like. The failure is attributable to a multitude of ineffective agencies responsible for the Estuary. It is depriving the citizens of Oakland and Alameda of safety, but it’s also a loss of what should be a source of pride and enjoyment. Wouldn’t it be cool to be an Oakland Marine Patrol police officer who gets off work, puts on their bathing suit and dives in for a swim? Or to go for a lunchtime row, paddle or sail? The Estuary photos below capture a small piece of how the community has, and should be able to have, fun in a safe, clean waterway.

Call of the Sea Seaward
A scene from a past visit to Jack London Square by Seaward from Call of the Sea, an organization that works hard to bring sailing opportunities to kids of all backgrounds.
© 2023 John
Cardboard boats at Encinal Yacht Club Summer Sailstice.
The cardboard boats built by competitors during a Summer Sailstice celebration often sink, to the laughter of the paddlers and contestants. They swim in the Estuary back to the dock. Tons of fun.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
ILCA sailing
The Estuary is one of the Bay’s best small-boat sailing areas. It’s a great place to race, sail, splash and swim in the calm East Bay sunshine.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Encinal Yacht Club
The Encinal Yacht Club Youth Program and Alameda Community Sailing are staffed by teenage instructors teaching youths and adults to sail. Both their programs, managed by many dedicated volunteers, have had their chase boats stolen and vandalized.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Latitude 38 readers continue to send photos, comments and feedback (“AMEN!! Thanks for writing this and keeping the issue on the front burner!”) regarding the state of the Estuary and inaction by the City and Port of Oakland and the Oakland Police. Being a peace officer is undoubtedly a tough job, but like any festering wound, things get worse if left unattended. We’re sure many Estuary residents would support the time and budget needed for a lunch run to Sam’s if it were in celebration of a job well done. For now, it’s terrible optics.

10 Comments

  1. Bruce Bennett 8 months ago

    It would be nice if a working person could attend these meetings. For more attendance, make the meeting in the evening, or tie it to an event that attracts boaters anyway.

  2. Michael Coleman 8 months ago

    Alameda is sandwiched between San Francisco and Oakland, where crime is rampant. It was only a matter of time before the criminals came through the tunnel, or over the green bridge to carry on their nefarious deeds. One of my brokerage colleagues had his catalytic converter stolen in broad daylight, while he was in the office! I’m also sure many of you remember outboards being stolen by culprit(s) cruising down the estuary in a boat and simply cutting off transoms with a saws all. Until criminals go to jail and stay in jail, this situation will continue.

  3. Candy 8 months ago

    I also attended the August 23rd meeting via Zoom & it was very disheartening. Like Oakland, Alameda couldn’t be bothered to have a City official show up in person or via Zoom. One BCDC official said Alameda had claimed there were no illegal encampments along the Estuary although as of a few weeks ago, there were definitely people staying there. Maybe they are gone now but I doubt it. Even a person who I believe was a Deputy DA for Alameda County had little if anything to say about the problem & lack of prosecution.

  4. Marianne 8 months ago

    I applaud your concern and on going broadcasting of this problem. It’s not going to go away. Particularly if the offenders have NO REASON to stop. There are no repercussions to their actions. They steal the boats, trash them, and people go and pick them up without even a slap on the wrist. We have confidently identified one individual but no attempt to stop or curtail their behavior has been made. It doesn’t make sense. It’s just getting worse and those of us that live on the Estuary are living in a state of fear and terrorism. We have an eye witness that this fella stole a boat from South Beach harbor on Sunday at 8:15 in the morning. Nothing will happen. It’s infuriating.

  5. Steve Haas 8 months ago

    Any chance we can get local TV or newspaper media to cover this story?

    • John Arndt 8 months ago

      In such a busy world it’s hard to see all the coverage. This issue is now getting the attention of many news outlets including the East Bay Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Bay Area NBC and even the Daily Mail in England. The attention on the inattention of Oakland and Port of Oakland officials is growing.

  6. Bill L 8 months ago

    First, I admit being a bit cynical about public employees. As I recall, Tiburon is not located within the City of Oakland and I do wonder how much taxpayer paid for gas the Oakland PD used to run over to Tiburon for lunch (assuming that’s what it was). Of course they probably only counted time in the restaurant as lunch time. The rest was probably classified as training or patrolling time. Being there also puts them much further away from any emergency call, if one came in they should respond to. As I said, just a bit cynical, as I am sure it was all for an on duty purpose.

  7. Bill L 8 months ago

    Edit.
    Just noticed 3 people on one boat and 4 on the other. Do they really run 3 and 4 man crews on those boats, or just invited buddies to go to lunch with them?

  8. Tracy Reigelman 8 months ago

    Ignoring the Alameda/Oakland Estuary, the issue lawlessness and image of the Wild West, is greater than what is reported happening with the “pirates” and “anchor outs”. In the past month, on the Oakland/Alameda Estuary, there have been as many – if not more – shoreside (within 100′ of the Estuary) crimes not involving boats as there have been reported on the water. All agencies need to work together to help solve, not just the Oakland PD Marine Unit.

    The optics of a Sam’s lunch is not appropriate, given the current “state of the union” in the Estuary. That said, the Oakland PD Marine Unit has publicly stated they are training up to 10 new marine patrol officers – which is a start.

    Personally, I don’t see the trip as any different from training a government “gas passer” airplane pilot goes through – take off from a cozy secure airfield in the US, fly to Europe, have lunch, return home (while the checkout pilot, a higher ranking officer, sleeps off his bangers and mash food coma).

    If the concern is poor spending of government funds – where are our elected officials and grand juries in stepping up to manage it? While it doesn’t look good – we ought to cut the Oakland PD officers some slack, they have a rough job.

  9. Recall Pamela Price 7 months ago

    Why are we all trying not to be cynical and cutting them slack? Going all the way to Sam’s is a waste of taxpayer resources, full stop. There are plenty of waterfront restaurants right on the estuary where they can train in docking techniques and also get lunch — if that’s what they claim this boondoggle is for — AND observe their own disastrous territory while doing it. Maybe, just maybe it can be justified as an extra-territory exercise for responding to very large incidents when Marin, SF, and USCG do not have sufficient resources to respond. Or maybe, just maybe it was a joint exercise with Sausalito/Richardson Bay enforcement to see they patrol their anchor-outs. But given the east bay’s especially sad state of affairs, I’d be dissatisfied with either of these rationales. I don’t blame the OPD itself; good on them for staffing up, in fact. They’re just operating per the inept & corrupt practices of the rest of Oakland and Alameda county leadership, esp. when it comes to law enforcement.

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