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Oakland Puts Parcel Tax on Ballot

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ The financially strapped Oakland City Council has voted to put four tax measures on the November ballot, including a four-year, $360-per-parcel assessment to fund police and fire services.

Other tax measures call for a 2.5 percent hike in business taxes for medical marijuana businesses, a telephone access charge that would bill residents $1.99 per telephone line and businesses $13 per trunk line, and a proposal to suspend until 2015 a minimum police staffing level set by 2004's Measure Y parcel tax vote.

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The parcel tax is the key to hiring back the 80 police officers laid off July 13. If voters pass the new $360 parcel tax and agree to revise Measure Y, the force could be brought back to 803 officers. It's now at 694.

Meantime, police in Oakland say there's been a spike in the number of armed robberies in the city ever since the department laid off 80 cops over two weeks ago.

The crime wave is happening in the central part of Oakland.

Police are logging a rash of armed robberies, home invasions, and attempted carjackings in what's known as "Area Two," the central section of Oakland.

Oakland is divided into three police districts.

"There is a rise in the type of activity taking place in Area Two, which is above 580 in the Fruitvale area," explained police department spokesman, Officer Jeff Thomason. OPD is forming a special task force to deal with this sudden rise in violent crime. "We are stepping up patrols in the area and we are going to be re-contacting victims of previous crimes to see if we can get better suspect descriptions."

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According to Thomason, there is no evidence that the robbers are emboldened by the downsizing of Oakland's police force. Rather, it could simply be a summer spike in violence. "Any time you have the hot weather come in and it's summertime, you're going to have an increase in criminal activity," he reasoned.

He notes that crime is actually down 18% in Oakland since last year, though the department will shift some resources to focus on the area that includes Fruitvale, Lake Merritt, and the Dimond and Laurel districts.

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