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The Power of Community vs Crime in Oakland

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It was 7 years ago that I wrote my first article for Broke-Ass Stuart around my transition from SF to Oakland. And I thought at first I’d write a long list of the differences I’ve noticed between the two iconic Bay Area cities. The primary distinction between residing in Oakland versus San Francisco lies in the neighborhood community dynamics of each city.

OMCA Off The Grid

In Oakland, the strength of neighborly communities plays a pivotal role in residents’ well-being. For many “Towners,” the sense of belonging within their neighborhood is fundamental to their enjoyment of living in Oakland and their ability to thrive, despite the city facing significant economic disparities and occasional spikes in crime rates.

During my time in San Francisco, my interactions with neighbors were limited to just a few close acquaintances, and I had little to no connection with residents in nearby apartment buildings. However, since moving to Oakland, I’ve experienced a profound shift in community engagement. My Oakland neighbors and I are connected through a large neighborhood text thread, where we regularly communicate about suspicious activity in the neighborhood. This heightened sense of camaraderie exemplifies the vibrant neighborly spirit that defines life in Oakland.

Harv Singh (right) is all smiles with others at the market – photo from the West Oakland Farmers Market Instagram

How Setting Up a Neighborhood Watch Can Help Protect Homes in Oakland

Just a few months ago, CBS did a story on an Oakland neighborhood who’s Neighborhood Watch has played a significant role in helping the neighborhood they live in feel safer. In October, one of the neighbors, Anne Battersby, experienced a break-in at her residence. Despite promptly contacting 911, the police did not conduct an investigation into the matter – potentially because it was no longer a burglary in progress. Despite providing the dispatcher with the license plate information, Neighbor Battersby discovered from fellow neighbors that the same vehicle and individuals were later involved in successfully breaking into another neighbor’s home.

“I think our biggest defense is unity with our neighbors and talking,” said Anne Battersby to CBS about the issue.

And I’m sure there will be several of you who will outline the dangers of Oakland. No one who lives here isn’t aware. But what’s different is that when something shady happens in your neighborhood, you’ll get a neighbor text with 20+ people who all are talking about the incident and what they plan to do to take action. There’s no complacency, there’s less of a bystander theory here – you may not see your elderly neighbor get involved entirely but do expect them to tell you when they see a shady individual or if a stolen car winds up on your street.


I had the best neighbors in The City but it was isolated to my apartment building or having friendly conversations with the owners of shops I lived near… there wasn’t the same “we’re all in this together” mentality when it came to stopping any crime or break ins within the neighborhood. Whereas in Oakland, there are several pockets of neighbors who have had enough and started Neighborhood Watches to help combat crime.

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A friend of mine had a string of neighborhood crime happen in her Oakland neighborhood – a few stolen cars showed up and then there was some graffiti that popped up randomly. Subsequently, every morning her neighbors were communicating on any progress with the incidents. This type of neighborhood communication is something that feels so different from the SF neighborhoods I lived in (largely in The Avenues). I wonder if that’s a product of Oakland having so many safety issues or if it’s part of why people love living in Oakland? What’s your point of view and experience?

Inside one of Oakland’s favorite dive bar, Baggy’s – a neighborhood hang out near Lake Merritt

Oakland’s vibrant sense of community, epitomized by the strong bonds between neighbors, stands in stark contrast to the more isolated interactions I experienced in San Francisco. The establishment of neighborhood watches, like the one exemplified by Anne Battersby and her vigilant neighbors, underscores the collective commitment to safety and solidarity in Oakland. While acknowledging the city’s challenges, it’s evident that Oakland’s strength lies in its united front against crime and its unwavering sense of community. As I continue to navigate life in this dynamic city, I am continually inspired by the spirit of collaboration and resilience that defines Oakland’s neighborhoods.


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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy has lived in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.