As crime continues to rise in Oakland, Calif., (robberies are up 54%, burglaries 40%, car theft 33%) entire neighborhoods are banding together to hire private security companies to supplement the city's overwhelmed police force, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The owner of one security company says his officers now patrol 300 homes, and expects to be at 500 by October. Another reports it's already at 500 now. And it's not just the well-to-do areas—residents in middle class neighborhood Maxwell Park recently started paying about 50 cents each a day for a guard to patrol their neighborhood for four hours a day.
The security companies say their officers aren't trying to replace cops, but some are armed, and won't hesitate to make citizen's arrests until the actual cops arrive. Oakland police say they're happy for the help. "We are all striving for the same goal, and that is reducing crime," says a police spokesperson. "The security companies are an extra set of eyes that allow the community to be empowered." But one councilwoman argues safety is not something Oakland residents should have to pay out-of-pocket for. "I applaud that effort," she says. "But it does not excuse the city for failing to provide the most basic element of government. It is not a substitute."