Violence in Oakland forces residents to seek private security

(CBS News) OAKLAND, Calif. -- There have been 61 murders so far in Oakland, Calif., and with crime on the rise, some neighbors are taking extraordinary steps.

Gunfire has become so common on the streets of Oakland, that even in neighborhoods that once seemed immune to the city's violence, residents are no longer shocked.

Jan Hetherington has lived for 14 years in the Oakland, California neighborhood of Maxwell Park. Yet she acknowledged she has to bring in private security to feel safe.
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"It's like, 'Oh, another shooting,'" said Jan Hetherington, who has lived for 14 years in the Oakland neighborhood of Maxwell Park. It's a place with glorious views across San Francisco Bay, neat houses and friendly neighbors.

"This is the most wonderful neighborhood I've ever lived in," she said. Yet she acknowledged she has to bring in private security to feel safe.

With budget cuts forcing Oakland to trim its police force by a third, residents decided to pay themselves for private security patrols, which is understandable when you hear Hetherington's story.

"A car came down the street, three guys got out with a gun. There was a gun battle three blocks over. And I did hear actually a bullet went through somebody's house."

That routine gunfire turned tragic last month.

"Our neighbor Judy, who lived in the next block to me, was shot and killed," said Hetherington.

Judy Salamon, a 66-year-old dog walker, was murdered as she drove home. Who did it and why is unknown. Neighbors gathering at the spot where she died fear that if it could happen to Salamon, it could happen to anyone.

Pastor Gregg Brown was threatened at gunpoint by someone who had complained about a noisy power washer used to clean the church.
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Pastor Gregg Brown moved here nine years ago. Even he has been threatened at gunpoint, right outside his Lutheran church

"I was scared and I'm still scared," he said.

The man with the gun complained about the noisy power washer used to clean the church sidewalk. Brown was told to stop or he'll be shot. "That's how close the crime is," he said.

Eighty-one-year-old Joyce Nichelini has lived Maxwell Park for 42 years.

"I lock a gate now and I lock my door and I have alarms. I even put bars on my house," she said. Yet she acknowledged she doesn't feel safe.

Other residents hope that when the private security patrols begin in a couple of weeks, it will bring a sense of security to a neighborhood most love too much to leave.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.