Ocean Beach Group Formed to Educate Women About Sexual Assaults – “Citizens’ Patrol” to be Established

by on October 4, 2012 · 10 comments

in Ocean Beach, Organizing, Popular, Women's Rights

Becky Sorenson, in pink, leads the discussion at the OB Woman’s Club, Oct. 3, 2012. (Photos by Frank Gormlie)

There was barely a seat available at last night’s meeting called by the OB Woman’s Club to discuss the recent sexual assaults in Ocean Beach. Nearly 50 people – over a quarter of them men – crowded into the building at the corner of Muir and Bacon – just yards from a violent sexual assault that took place during the wee hours of August 25th.

Becky Sorensen, vice-president of the club, opened the meeting and welcomed everyone. The meeting had been set up out of frustrations, apparently, at the weak response women had received when they brought up their concerns about the assaults and peeping tom at the OB Town Council meeting recently. A number of individuals approached the leadership of the Woman’s Club that night out in front of the Masonic Hall after the Town Council and asked if a meeting could be held there.  Becky and Celeste McClure jumped into the task and printed up a flier and began distributing them around town.

Becky expressed worries that in OB women walk home at all hours by themselves – and that they needed someone to escort them home. She also spoke of potentially setting up a Neighborhood Watch or some such group, the need to educate women in the community, and pointed to a list of sexual crimes in northwest OB over the last six months.  She then opened up the discussion to the floor.

Over the course of the next hour, many people spoke, and many good ideas on what to do were expressed.  One of the first major plans was outlined by Tim of Tower Two – and he wanted to set up an “OB Citizens Patrol”, and he was signing up volunteers immediately. Tim’s vision – and he said he’s set up several in the past – was to have 30 people, broken up into teams on 3 to 4 hour shifts, to “walk around” and “watch” the streets.  This would be preferably during the “worst” hours, 11pm to 2:30 or 3am, after the bars let out.

Tim explained that he saw the patrols walking the streets, particularly in the “War Zone” of OB – the northwest sector of the village that has had a notorious reputation of being a rough neighborhood. But, he quickly followed, the patrosl are not looking for trouble and won’t have any “bad ass attitude” – and anyone who did would be rejected.

It was noted that many women workers at the bars and restaurants walk home after closing time – alone.  Also noted was the hesitation by many to simply rely on or call the police for assistance, that often they don’t respond, and they also have a perspective of ‘let us do our job’ toward citizen efforts like patrols, or neighborhood watches not set up through their system.

Leaders and participants of the meeting: from left to right: Celeste McClure, Becky Sorenson, Kerrylea, and Donna Bergerson.

Other ideas and potential solutions were expressed, as well as other concerns.  One woman said there’s lots of rumors out there, and “we’ve got to separate fact from fiction” – and Becky responded, “That’s why we have the list.”

Going door-to-door and going to the bars themselves was suggested by several, in order to get the word out about the dangers for women. Having ‘Safe House’ stickers with a green peace sign – like the old Green OB – was brought up, reporting suspicious behavior was another; one man offered a free women’s self-defense seminar; other ideas included offering free rides home late at night; organizing a march on the issue had many murmurs in agreement; get the word out into the mainstream media; individuals taking their own block to communicate concerns ….

Several raised questions why the issue about the sexual assaults hadn’t been picked up by the media.  John, the brother of the woman assaulted on August 25, said that the media ignored his sister’s assault but ran stories when he put up ‘wanted posters’ to the disdain of police.  The Club did set up an OB crime watch facebook page, called OB Crime Watch here, which can be used for communication. The OB Rag was also offered as a tool for the group to get the word out.

There was only a little talk about “urban travelers” but it was also stated that there was no evidence that the homeless were involved in the assaults, and that homeless are victims themselves of assaults.

Finally, those present agreed to form a coordination committee to ensure that the ideas and energy were not lost.  Tim offered his Tower Two restaurant as a meeting place.  The committee – open to all there – will meet Monday night, October 8th at 7 pm.

Before the group broke up, Becky spoke of her and others’ frustrations at the OB Town Council meeting held on September 26th where many women in attendance were talking about their concerns over the sexual attacks. Yet, Becky felt “our concerns were denied, our concerns invalidated, and they had a condescending attitude towards us.”

As people began filing out of the room, several noted that no members of the Town Council had attended the meeting. Looking around, it was also clear that no one in the leadership of OB’s official organizations had bothered to come out to the meeting. No one from the OBTC was there, no one from the OB Planning Board, no one from the OB Mainstreet Association or other group – except the OB Woman’s Club.

At the end, the president of the Club and long-time resident, Donna Bergerson, stood up and thanked everyone for coming and offered the Club’s building for another large meeting.  She was answered with applause, and she signaled the leadership of Becky – and there was more applause. By then, a TV station had shown up and began interviewing a number of folks.

Yet, this is only the beginning, the beginning of a community-wide effort to educate the women of Ocean Beach, to do it “the OB way” – of taking problems head-on by the citizens ourselves, without waiting for the City.

A coordinating body will be established, along with a Citizens Patrol – in an effort to ensure OB’s late night streets are safe, to deter sexual predators and peeping toms.  This will also bring pressure to bear on the politicians and the police – to step up their efforts to bring peace and harmony back to the village of OB.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Celeste October 4, 2012 at 10:35 am

Thank you Frank of OB Rag, Channel 10 news, Phillip Gordon of the Vault Combat Academy, the OB Woman’s Club and all the OBceans who came out to show their support. In all fairness, I don’t think the OBTC, OBMA, or the OB planning board were invited. See you Monday October 8, 7:00 PM at the Tower Two Cafe to continue discussing solutions to the issues. Everyone is welcome.

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avatar scott October 4, 2012 at 12:25 pm

In even more fairness to the OB planning board they actually had their regularly scheduled monthly meeting last night (not that many others in the community were there) so it would have been impossible to attend. This is a great opportunity for folks who profess such concern for the community to get involved proactively, start attending some of the many community meetings that happen on a monthly basis and not simply walk out of meetings once their single issue is done.

At OBTC I heard many complain that residents were never informed about any of the security issues. In reality the police are at each monthly meeting and those of us who attend knew all the details becuase they were presented by the community relations officer monthly.

Maybe the way to create a well informed, secure and tight-nit community is to be involved all the time instead of just when something is wrong… just a thought.

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avatar Frank Gormlie October 4, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Scott – thanks for the clarification. Someone forgot to send the OB Rag the OBPB Agenda and we didn’t post it. Sorry about all of that. The OB Rag did announce the meeting which invited everyone and anyone in OB.

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avatar Celeste October 4, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I also don’t belive it was intentional to not invite the OBTC, OBMA, or the OB Planning Board. Kindest regards.

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avatar Sunshine October 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm

i was very impressed by the number of concerned citizens who attended last night’s Neighborhood Meeting. Our hearts go out to the victim’s of these assaults and bringing this crime streak to an end was top on everyone agenda.

Way to go OBceans!

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avatar Kathy October 5, 2012 at 2:07 am

Frank,
First, thanks for publishing the meeting date/time. I’m on your mailing list & found out just a few hours before it happened. Great synopsis of the discussions, and I plan to attend the meeting Monday night.

I was surprised by the “anti-police” attitudes by many attendees, having lived in OB for a number of years with no major complaints. That is, until last night. Perhaps SDPD resents the proposed Citizens Watch or are under pressure for not publicizing the recent sex crimes, and are responding aggressively to allegations of insufficient patrol units. But, what happened to me was uncalled for . . .

I rode my bike to Apple Tree Market, was unknowingly “red lighted” for a block and detained in the parking lot by two cops. I saw the flashing lights and thought they were responding to a crime at the grocery store, until they walked in my direction. I asked if they were “looking for me?” and was startled when they responded “yes”! Because I did not have a red tail light or affixed light on my bike. I showed them the hand held flashlight I used, because I forgot to turn off my bike light after riding in early morning fog the day before, and the battery died. They took my ID, ran a criminal check, and didn’t issue a ticket.

How embarrassing! When I was approached by a store manager and several customers who wanted to know what I did wrong, they were appalled. Responses ranged from “why aren’t they patrolling the wall” or “looking for peepers, gropers & rapists?”

So anyway, I sent an email to Western Division with the Bicycle Equipment Code (I was not in violation) and passed on the negative commentary I heard at Wednesday’s meeting. Now I understand the reluctance or avoidance, voiced by many of the attendees, to involve the police.

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avatar Kathy October 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm

UPDATE: I received a nice reply from Western Division Community Relations this morning. The officer confirmed I was correct – only a rear reflector is required on bicycles – and appreciated my efforts to look up the Equipment Code. I’m generally NOT “anti-police”, and the fact that OB’s crime stats are far less than neighboring communities should be viewed positively, and the recent sexual related incidents a rarity.

Jan – Aug 2012 Crime Rate Index:
OB (391)
RANCHO BERNARDO (420)
KEARNY MESA (442)
SERRA MESA (464)
HILLCREST (595)
UNIVERSITY CITY (656)
LA JOLLA (705)
PB (1216)
MISSION VALLEY (1258)

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avatar Katie October 5, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Hello,
I am very sad that I was not able to attend this meeting! I did not check the schedule so that is my own fault, but I really wish I could have been there!
I am a nursing student and I am also a resident of OB. I am currently taking my community health nursing class and I, as well as 3 other female nursing students, have been working in OB for the last 2 months just trying to determine any health related needs the community may have. As soon as we began talking to the residents of OB, it was clear that people are extremely concerned about their safety as they walk the streets, especially at night. In fact, my husband told me I was not allowed to walk alone at night anymore. We have a plan to address this issue, our number one concern was finding a group that would really back us on this issue. We would love to work with the OB Women’s Club if they will have us. We have some great ideas about raising awareness and making OB safer simply by educating the community and helping everyone come together as a joint force. We are not blaming ANY group at all for the attacks and issues; we just want the people, both male and female, to be safe and aware of safety hazards in the area. We have spoken to police, and they seemed willing to aid us in our efforts, so maybe we could all join forces. The ideas we have are sustainable, meaning, even after our project is over, there will be materials left behind to help educate the community on how to stay safe :-) I love this community so much, and I know I am not alone; but the fact that we have to be afraid is not okay. Both this article and the one in the Beacon were so refreshing for me and my group…finally people are talking about these issues and are not acting like they are not there! Ignoring this will not help it! If you love a community, you should not ignore it’s problems, especially when it comes to safety; the problems need to be addressed.
Please, if you are a member of the OB Women’s Club contact me at katherine.schubert.nusn@gmail.com. We would LOVE to be a part of what you are doing! :-)
Thank you so much,
Katie Schubert

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avatar Celeste October 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Katie,
Thank you for reaching out to the OB Woman’s Club. We are delighted to talk with you about joining forces to raise awareness and making our streets safer. I sent you an email and look forward to meeting with you to talk about these pressing issues.
Kindest regards,
Celeste

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avatar kenloc October 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I see they are going to put a brewery in the long vacant pink building on lower Newport.I love a good beer,but how many places that serve alcohol does OB need? Every new establishment that serves alcohol adds to the crime rate and increases safety issues in the community.You cannot allow every new business in OB to serve and expect the crime rate to drop. I realize we are a party town,but shouldn’t there be a limit?Perhaps some better community planning is in order? Im sure the police have a hard time balancing out how much Obeeans like to party vs. keeping us safe.

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