Pubdate: Sun, 09 Apr 2006
Source: Alameda Times-Star, The (CA)
Copyright: 2006 ANG Newspapers
Author: William Brand, Staff Writer


Vigliance, City Hall Help Shut Down Crime In One Fruitvale Neighborhood

OAKLAND -- They had a party Saturday afternoon in front  of 3025 
School St. in the Fruitvale District with  balloons, kids running 
around, barbecue donated by  Everett & Jones and a lot of smiles. 
Drug dealers, not  welcome.

It was a party that no one living in the area would  have believed 
could happen a few years ago, especially  not in front of that house.

This was a block dominated by drug dealers. One  Christmas not long 
ago, a neighbor, Andrew Dibble, said  he drove home to find a murder 
victim slumped in a car  outside the drug house.

"Daytime, nighttime, it didn't matter. It was  non-stop," he said.

"The grocery store on the corner was all boarded up. It  wasn't safe 
here," Dibble said.

All that has changed dramatically. Fed-up residents  formed a 
neighborhood watch group. They began calling  City Hall.

Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente,  who represents 
the Fruitvale district, signed on. So  did City Attorney John Russo.

De la Fuente brought in police, city inspectors and  regulators. 
Russo brought his Neighborhood Law Corps,  young deputy attorneys, 
who brought the weight of the  courts on the drug house.

Both De La Fuente and Russo attended the block party  and praised 
residents for hanging tough. The city is  reclaiming neighborhoods 
one by one, they said.

The law corps is able to do much more in the courts  than residents 
can with a small claims, nuisance law  suit, Russo said.

Laura Blair of the Neighborhood Law Corps said  attorneys actually 
filed actions against the owners of  three problem houses on the 
block and won court-ordered  restrictions and settlements. The 
absentee owner of the  3025 School St. house was forced to sell the 
house. Drug using and drug dealing residents left.

The lawsuit also gave the city jurisdiction over the  sale. The new 
owner was required to live in the house,  Blair said.

In fact, neighbors added, the new owner has joined the  neighborhood watch.

Down at the corner store, proprietor Ahmed Faiz said he  got a $3,000 
loan from the city and put in another

$18,000 to upgrade the store. Now, there are large,  clean windows. 
The store boasts a well-stocked,  refrigerated section with fresh 
fruits and vegetables.  The store sells more groceries now, Faiz 
said. "We want  the word to get around, so more people will shop here."

Andretta Fowler, who lives nearby, said the success  shows "if people 
work together, things like this can  happen."

Neighbors said the first change came when a minister  from Shiloh 
Christian Fellowship, an Oakland community  church, set up a portable 
organ in front of the drug  house and began singing hymns.

"Once her battery ran out and the people in the drug  house let her 
plug into their electricity," a neighbor  said.

They didn't know it, but those hymns were writing an  obituary for 
drug dealing on School Street.

"Amen," a neighbor said.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman