When people tell me about crimes they’ve witnessed or been a victim of, I naturally ask, “Did you call the police?”

There is a common thread in the replies I hear around Oakland. People say they call the police, and the police don’t come unless it’s a murder.

I guess this really shouldn’t be a surprise considering that the Oakland Police Department is down 80 officers and losing an average of 3 per month to retirement. Lt. Michael Johnson of Police Communications says his department dispatched over 34,000 Priority 1 calls (violent crime in progress) in 2006. That’s around 93 violent crimes in progress each day.

How could the police possibly respond to those other, less pressing calls to break up fights, pick up dead opossums, tow abandoned cars, or track stolen goods?

I wonder about the psychological effect of letting all of those little things slip through the cracks. How does it feel when you call the police and no one comes?