West Berkeley neighbors ask for answers after homicide

Councilwoman Linda Maio organized a community meeting over the weekend in her district following the homicide earlier this month of Zontee Jones. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Councilwoman Linda Maio (left) organized a community meeting in her district over the weekend following the homicide earlier this month of Zontee Jones. She appears here with Detective Sgt. David White and Lt. Dave Frankel of the Berkeley Police Department, and Rev. Este Gardner Cantor, vicar of The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. Photo: Emilie Raguso

About 25 neighbors came together at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church over the weekend to share concerns and ideas about safety in west Berkeley following the shooting death earlier this month of Zontee Jones.

Councilwoman Linda Maio organized the meeting with members of the Berkeley Police Department to make sure residents in her district could connect with authorities and share their worries and suggestions.

Berkeley Police Lt. Dave Frankel told those in attendance, who sat in a circle in a community room belonging to Good Shepherd, that Jones’ death, which represented the city’s first homicide of the year, was not random.

“Somebody had something against somebody else, and they dealt with their issue directly,” he said.

One attendee asked police to confirm that Jones lived in the neighborhood, and Frankel said only that he knew the victim “from a different part of town a couple years back.” He added that he couldn’t comment on leads related to the case due to the ongoing investigation.

Residents asked police about recent home burglaries, a pepper-spray attack of a woman walking to BART and how to come up with neighborhood solutions to violence.

Frankel said the best approach for community members is to reach out to police quickly, with as much information as possible, if they spot anything suspicious. (For those with “quality of life” concerns and chronic problems in Area 4, he said the best contact is beat officer Rashan Cummings at 510-981-5774. For time sensitive issues, or reporting crimes in progress, residents can call 911 for emergencies and 510-981-5900 for non-emergencies.)

“When the switchboard lights up like a Christmas tree, we know something is going down,” he said. “I want you to call about all suspicious activity. That’s what I really need you to do: Pick up the phone.”

Frankel said the most common type of crime in Area 4 — which covers much of Sacramento Street west to the waterfront, and from the city’s southern border up to Albany — is auto burglaries. He urged residents to watch out for people peering into cars and trying door handles, and to let police know if they notice this behavior. He also asked people to take the time to report auto burglaries or when a vehicle is rifled through; it helps police with data collection and asset allocation, he said. (Certain types of reports can be made online.)

Councilwoman Maio remarked that community members who are home during the day bear a “special responsibility to be the eyes on the street” to watch for anything suspicious, such as people casing homes or knocking on doors.

In response to a question about possible ways to improve safety and communication, some participants suggested organizing a Neighborhood Watch program and setting up a community email list, as well as throwing block parties or driveway parties to build neighborhood cohesion.

One longtime resident spoke of the importance of getting to know neighbors and keeping an eye on the block.

“In the old days, we took care of a lot of things ourselves,” he said. “A lot of new families are moving in, and they don’t know each other. I try to introduce myself to them.”

He also said he’d seen an improvement in neighborhood safety, and Lt. Frankel concurred. Frankel, who’s been with the Berkeley Police Department for 21 years, said there have been dramatic reductions in violent crime and open-air drug dealing.

On the flip side, people have much more access to information and data, which can lead to a false perception of increased violence, said Frankel.

“Everyone I know feels less safe than five years ago,” noted one woman. “Is it getting worse?”

Frankel acknowledged that “your perception is your reality” but reassured her that numbers are flat or down in Berkeley for most serious crimes.

One resident, Curt Gray, said there seemed to be a common phenomenon of long-time residents noting improvements in safety, but newer neighbors saying they feel unsafe, perhaps compared with where they’ve moved into the neighborhood from.

David Rodriguez said he grew up in west Berkeley, and remembers riding his bike around a local park in the 90s, and seeing dead dogs from dog fights, discarded cocaine bags and needles from drug use.

“This area has improved dramatically,” he told the group. “Now you see people biking, people jogging. It’s a big improvement. I’m happy about what’s going on.”

One resident asked if police could have greater visibility in the neighborhood following this month’s homicide. Frankel said it isn’t likely, unless there’s a longer trend of incidents to show a pattern of criminal activity.

“You’re not going to see a difference in the way the Police Department handles crime in your area,” he said. “One random event is not going to change policing in Berkeley.”

Berkeley police make arrests related to two Berkeley homicides [02.14.13]
Police name Zontee Jones as year’s first Berkeley homicide [02.06.13]
Man shot dead in Berkeley, first homicide of 2013 [02.04.13]
City of Berkeley offers reward to find ‘Cowboy’ killer [12.20.12]

If your neighborhood is having a community meeting that you think may be newsworthy, please let Berkeleyside know via email at tips@berkeleyside.com. Learn about crime in your neighborhood via CrimeView Community and CrimeMapping.com.

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • bgal4

    1. crime information indicates that yes crime is getting worse it that violence is used more often in the commission of robberies
    2. The culture of dispatch continues to be an obstacle and needs adjustment, particularly if the direction the dept is heading is an increase of community members reporting suspicious activity
    3. The missing piece of CIP is the community engagement part in a sustained, structured method of neighborhood based problem solving and priority setting based on data.

  • Hearst St. Neighbor

    I live within 3 blocks of where this happened and nobody told me anything about this meeting until now. I have e-mailed Linda Maio several times and should be on her e-mail list, why was I not informed about this meeting?

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    It’s one shooting, people.

    If this shooting happened someplace else would that be better?

    You live in a world where violence occurs. You are part of that
    world. And this death was an isolated incident, right? Drug dealer
    stuff, correct?

    Hey, when this happened at Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza, nobody
    wanted to “come together” to talk about *that*, did they? They just
    used it as a scapegoating excuse to get rid of the Occupy Movement,
    which was JUSTIFIED considering all the corruption and crime WITHIN
    yours and my government, local and nationally.

    You want the violence to stop? Root out the corruption in our
    system. When corruption takes hold the people suffer. People are
    marginalized. People are scapegoated. Then they are put in positions
    they never thought they’d ever be in their lives, like having to do
    something drastic to feed their families, which could be dangerous.

    I listened to someone tell me “if you stop feeding the homeless
    people they won’t be ‘enabled’ anymore and they’ll go away.” First off,
    that is such a false statement, because the problem won’t go away.
    Secondly, “enabling” as in, enabling them to live? Yeah, we’re so
    awful. And lastly, if you stop feeding those in need, when you become
    INTOLERANT to people based on their socioeconomic status, you create an
    environment where violence becomes the order of the day.

    Stop feeding people and stay intolerant and you will have more senseless violent acts.

    I find it amusing that once the violence hits a certain neighborhood,
    everyone freaks out. But if it’s someplace like East of West Oakland,
    Compton, The Bronx, whatever, it’s always a “shame,” and “sad.”

    You guys can fix this… if you want. Fix the corruption in your
    local government, and then fix the corruption in your Federal
    Government. Only THEN will things begin to change.

    But what do I know?

    I’m a crazy person.

    -James Richard Armstrong II

    -Wing-Nut Taliban

    P.S. Now I bet you want to take away more of my “rights”… well, no, you can’t. You can’t have ANY OF THEM. I will not let fear, scapegoating or propaganda steer me, and I live in it, daily. I am not afraid, either. You people live in houses… yet, you are frightened to death?

    Sweet, sweet irony shines her head, once again.

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    “particularly if the direction the dept is increasing suspicious activity reporting.”

    And WHO decides what “suspicious activity”???

    Most people are not trained to know what that is. So these things get muddied.

    Treyvon Martin anyone? Remember??? Do you even remember who this kid WAS???

    He was targeted, just like that, and he was an innocent victim of MURDER by someone who THOUGHT.

    I’m not saying if you see something stupid you don’t report it, but if you are not trained to deal with this sort of thing, like police officers (who get it wrong every once in a while too, and they are ‘professionals’), there will be MORE VICTIMS than just one murder.

    This reminds me of that tourist in Hawaii, who was “attacked” (Nice choice of wording, considering she was IN THE OCEAN, the shark’s habitat and environment, and not on the beach, creeping up on it’s tippy-toes, sneaking up to the sunbather, grabbing her, and running off with her back into the ocean, mind you.) by a Tiger Shark, while swimming, IN THE OCEAN.

    What happened next? Idiocy and reactionary stupidity happened, that’s what happened.

    A lot like the Spielberg film “Jaws,” all the local WHITE fishermen got worked up and the Mob Mentality ruled that day, as they all took off from their docks and went out and hunted down over 20 Tiger Sharks.

    The local inhabitants, who have been there longer than those fishermen, had a problem with that, because they worship the Tiger Shark. They believe Tiger Sharks are ex-relatives. Scoff if you want, but that’s no different than believing a MAN walked on water. But I digress. The local fishermen, primed up by the local “news” media and others, pushed them to kill all those sharks. And for what?

    Because a woman went into the shark’s environment and got eaten?

    What is the definition of insanity again everyone? You know, that doesn’t ONLY apply to AA and NA meetings, you know.

    Now attack me, call me a “nut” or a “loon,” and NOT FIX ANYTHING.

    -James Richard Armstrong

  • Just Sayin’

    Pointless ranting like this would be better suited for the Berkeley Daily Planet.


  • Just Sayin’

    Still biting the hand that feeds, I see.

  • bgal4

    Pointless, and INACCURATE ranting.

  • bgal4

    And WHO decides what “suspicious activity”???

    Every individual has this right.

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    “Now attack me, call me a “nut” or a “loon,” and NOT FIX ANYTHING.”

    Changed your name, Mr. Sharkey? Or, Mr. Keene, is it?

    “Pointless,” yeah, I pay attention.

    Multiple fake identities… handing out cigarette tickets to the poor and homeless like they’re criminals bent on raping your dog’s arsehole is not an excuse to do so. Just because YOUR MASTERS push doesn’t mean you should. You’re SUPPOSED to uphold the laws of the land and execute those orders to EVERYONE. I never see you guys up near the “Gourmet Ghetto” handing out those type tickets, and I see WEALTHY FOLKS smoking all over the place.

    I see “other people” who are not below the poverty line and homeless smoking, all the time. There are cigarette butts all over Shattuck, but I only see a select few getting ticketed?


  • James Richard Armstrong II

    haha… would you like to point out the “INACCURATE ranting”??? Or are you going to just sit and spout bullshit?

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    “Every individual has this right.”

    Nobody ever said you didn’t have a “right” to do that, sir, or lady.

    What I am saying is YOU ARE NOT QUALIFIED TO DO SO.

    Again, Treyvon Martin was MURDERED by someone JUST LIKE YOU.

    What was his crime again???

    You’re all Cowards.

    And you’re not going to get away with it… unless you “get rid” of me. And even if you were to be able to do so, someone else would come behind me, pick up the torch, and head straight for you.

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    How is it Berkeleyside “feeds” me, exactly?

    Or are you referring to me ripping the corrupt city council of Berkeley?

    And “enabling” because you’re frightened to GET SUED is not “feeding,” sir.

    You DO notice I am the ONLY ONE IN HERE who posts HIS REAL NAME.


  • guest

    You complain about other people NOT FIXING ANYTHING and then sit on the sidewalk writing on your laptop and begging for change all day. How much have you fixed?

  • emraguso

    We’d like to remind readers to avoid profanity, and please try to be respectful of each other. Also, please keep the conversation on topic. All of that will go a long way toward keeping the comment section interesting and relevant. Thanks.




  • Anna

    James you are right. And biting the hand that feeds?! You have to be crazy to think that people “enable” the homeless by feeding them. Really Berkeley with your 11 million dollar animal shelter? Get off your high horse Berkeley. You are not unique anymore and you are not special. You are all afraid of everything and need to stop it and deal with issues in a far better way then they use too. Here is a solution, let everyone be and go after violent criminals. I wonder how many rape kits are in storage or cold cases that need to be solved. And you guy want to go ticket the homeless knowing full well you will not get your money or get them off the streets.

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    P.S. There are too many states nowadays. Please eliminate three.

    P.P.S. I am not a crackpot.

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    Um, I do not sit on the sidewalk all day long and beg for change, stupid.

    That was something I did, sure. But how am I to write about something unless I experience first? I am not like some of you people who dictate from far away, never ever getting close to the actual problem. When it is all said and done, WHEN I sell my book, I will manage the problem you people keep scapegoating — the homeless and mentally handicap problem.

    I help out there on a daily basis. Some days I can’t help, but that’s okay, because there are days I can, in spades. Giving people food and clothing. Making sure their RIGHTS ARE NOT BEING TRAMPLED UPON BY FASCISTS AND NAZIS. I’m doing MORE THAN YOU ARE, I do know that.

    How do I know this? The mentality. The Philosophy you behold, that’s how.

    And some things cannot be “fixed,” but they can be “managed.” And if you don’t try to manage something, it never gets close to being fixed. And that is what has happened with a lot of this stuff.

    Look, the corruption in our government is not a “news” story. This is “old hat.” If there were actual contingencies in place to help solve some of these issues the result would look a whole lot different. Also, blaming those at the BOTTOM for the corruption at the TOP is ridiculous and shows the scapegoating and marginalizing.

    When you behave in this fashion you are essentially blaming victims; victims of violence; victims of rape and child rape; victims of all sort of physical, emotional and spiritual abuse.

    What am *I* doing to help fix things?

    Child please.

    -James Richard Armstrong II

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    This is how Treyvon Martin died, stupid. Community involvement. The guy who shot him was not qualified to even be carrying a gun, let alone discharging it in that situation. Also, the guise under which he followed Trevyon Martin, because he was wearing a hoodie and was black and in the “wrong neighborhood” IS the symptom.

    Oh, and who is “ranting” now, person who changes their identity like I change my underwear and socks — daily.

    This is like slapping a five-year-old with their own flimsy, fish-like arm.


  • James Richard Armstrong II

    Hey, I would curb some of this, but I am dealing with (purposeful) ignorance and fear-baiting and scapegoating, so I am sorry for that, but this topic is very heated.

    These folks are the symptom and they are yelling at the cure.

    “The Master points at the moon and the Fool shouts the Master’s Finger.”

    That’s a Zen quote, most of the unenlightened in this place would not understand such things.

    Oh, and anger with awareness can and is being used as a tool to expose the fallacies and corruption going on in this nation and city of Berkeley.

    Again, I apologize for some of this, as they are attacking me (again, I believe purposefully because of those who are attacking — political enemies I call out) and I am defending myself.

    Again, those attacking me are acting like Cowards, hiding behind assumed names, changing them, too. Check that out. You have the same Clown doing it, too. Isn’t that against some board rules or something?

    Whatever… that’s how I know I am getting to them. Anytime your opponent behaves this way, arguing ancillary points instead of the topic discussed, that means they have nothing to add to the topic nor do they have any answers. It also tells me they are purposefully mucking up the works, because they ARE PART OF THE CORRUPTION, and I know they are.

    As a cockroach crawls on the wall of the downtown Berkeley Public Library… I *do* love irony and timely cockroaches!


  • 4Eenie

    James, I don’t think Just Sayin’ is The Sharkey. I’ve seen them both comment on Berkeleyside, and their tones are different from one another. The Sharkey has also consistently been The Sharkey, regardless of what he says and how it comes across to others.
    Where has The Sharkey been, anyway? He is conspicuously absent on Berkeleyside of late. Whether you love or hate his comments, he always has something to say, but not lately. The Sharkey, what gives?

  • guest

    what does this have to do with the murder that this article is about?

  • guest

    The article and comments are only partly about the murder and are more generally about public policy advocacy and individual attitudes in response to the murder and to crime generally. James is introducing a realist and class-aware perspective to that conversation, perhaps in hope of weakening a self-perpetuating cycle of oppression and crime.

  • 4Eenie

    I don’t understand why you are speaking for James, and apparently, for “Anna”. Why not let them answer questions directed at them?

  • guest

    My guess would be that Anna spoke up to help demonstrate James is not speaking some incomprehensible alien language and is making some sense, in spite of some of the replies he had been getting. That’s my reason, too.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I also have been wondering about where Sharkey has gone. Sometimes he is inactive for a while, and I assume it is because he is busy with work, but usually not for this long.

    I also don’t think Just Sayin’ is Sharkey. They write in very different ways.

  • curiousjorge

    same here – I’m right around the corner. anyone have tips on how we missed the boat?

  • We can only suggest you email Linda Maio (again) and ask to be included on her office’s e-newsletter list. Her email = LMaio@ci.berkeley.ca.us

  • Guest

    Oh yes you are.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    probably all the same nutcase, swapping accounts.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    You’re right: we’re all corrupt and understand nothing. You should pull up your tent stakes and go to where everyone wlll understand you. That’ll show us!

  • 4Eenie

    I don’t disagree with your assessment… but what does that say about the argument and the person making the argument? Bolster one’s own argument with fake agreement from one’s self? Complicated and weird. And not too convincing.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Yeah, where is he? Bring back the Sharkey!

  • TN

    My following comments aren’t directly about Council Member Maio or anyone else.

    Many politicos and non-profit activists use emailing services to maintain their email lists. I live in Darryl Moore’s district and I know that he used “Constant Contact:” as his provider. I don’t know that he is using them currently.

    I had a problem receiving email from Darryl Moore. I knew that I was on Darryl Moore’s email list. When I saw that other recipients (read: other email addies) received his messages and my email account didn’t receive the same message, I asked Council member Moore to track down the problem.

    It turned out that my ISP considered one of the email servers controlled by Moore’s email service to be a “spam” site and had blocked it. The messages didn’t even make it to my blocked spam list. However because the council member’s email service used other servers occasionally (with different IPs), the messages would come through to my account.

    One of the non-profit organizations that I support is having the same problem contacting me. My ISP is blocking email from the organizations’ email marketing provider on some occasion depending on which server site the marketing firm is using.

    We have a problem here.

  • district 3 resident

    I live in District 2 and I wish my councilman, Max Anderson, held some meeting or some response to the shootings that have occurred here. I am glad that Ms. Maio does something. I hope youre reading this Mr. Anderson

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    Oh, the person with the “Pragmatic Progressive” moniker. Get off the fence. Pick one. You’re a phony. Read: U.N. Agenda 21 and tell me I am crazy.

    Again, you have not attempted attacking my content, because you can’t. You marginalize, as I said you would. You denigrate, as I said you would. You offer nothing in response, only nonsense.

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    I only thought it was him, 4Eenie, because of his choice of wording. It sounds the same. The scapegoating and marginalizing is the same, though. And that is how they do it. They have nothing to contribute. They are on here to dissuade people from the Truth. Deflect. Spin. Take the focus off. It’s obvious. Nazis did this stuff, by the way. And I do not write that lightly. All this stuff is Nazi-like. If people actually read books the would know this.

    Thanks for the (tame) response.


  • James Richard Armstrong II

    Actually, it is. You clowns, all ten of you, can’t see the forest through the trees.

    Treyvon Martin was killed by some “community security agent” with not much training.

    And you all are scared to death because someone got murdered in your neighborhood, when we KNOW there will be more murders just from looking at the yearly homicide statistics.

    This entire push is a ploy to privatize police by using people like George Zimmerman, the man who stalked and killed Treyvon Martin. This is what you people will be advocating be done. This is all going according to script.

    You people never do see the baby steps to this stuff. It starts with the reporting, and it ends with unqualified people carrying weapons and patrolling neighborhoods who should not be doing so.

    But yeah, I don’t know nuthin’… [rolling eyes]

    You’re the type people, all ten of you, who chide, “How did this happen?” or, “How did we get here?!”… well, this is how. You’re shooting the wrong guy.


    The Messenger

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    Because they aren’t doing this for you… it’s a ruse to get average ordinary citizens to walk foot patrols in those neighborhoods, and arm them, like they did George Zimmerman, the man who stalked and killed Treyvon Martin. A name most of you ten, if not all, probably had no clue of when you read it.

    Since these bureaucrats did not notify people in that neighborhood of this event taking place, that tells me they don’t really care about you, because it’s not about you.

    Again, it’s another dog and pony show… and you are all buying it.

    I could see if this were the fiftieth murder in Berkeley and it was only July. Then you would have a large concern. But it’s only the first murder, and as I stated, there will be more, according to statistics… so what is the big deal here? Besides someone being murdered, which IS tragic, I’m not trying to diminish this human being getting murdered. But you people sound like panicked geese who just saw a wolf and think that same wolf will be coming back???

    They caught him, correct?

    Isolated and (potentially) solved… so what is your fear again?

    If you would inform yourselves instead of being frightened to death by those trying to frighten you to death, you would be much better off. And quit watching the television, too. Especially the “news.” It’s not “news.” The word “new” is in there, and there is nothing new about what they are doing to all of you.

    At what point to you realize none of these politicians care about you?


    Out. Of. Touch.

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    haha… two idiots voted your response down?

    And I believe the animal shelter’s price tag is: $13 million?

    The ticket thing with the homeless is to harass to they leave town.

    It’s tired and obvious.

    Last night I found out the city of Berkeley received “$1,332,952 just a couple years back, in 2011? The Federal Government gave them this money, I believe… where did it go? Do we have accurate records or an independent audit on this stuff? Because I have been here since that time, and I don’t understand where it all went!

    That’s quite a bit of money.

    P.S. Thank you for using your name, “Anna.” Even if it’s not your real name, it’s better than most of these Cowards, who hide behind a pseudonym and tell me it’s because of their “standing in the community,” suggesting to me that they either work as a politician or cop… either way, if you can’t stand behind your words, and the subject matter is this serious, you need to shut up about it.

    Help fix (or manage) it, or get the hell out of the way.


  • James Richard Armstrong II

    Ugh… you people really can’t connect dots, can you!?

    Sad and hilarious, at the same time.

    Precedence is a word I like to use a bit when dealing with people of your… kind.


  • James Richard Armstrong II

    Is there more than just one “guest” in here?

    This guy (or gal) is acting like he (or she) actually uses their brains, unlike the other one. Must be different folks. Can’t be the same cat.

  • James Richard Armstrong II

    I do.


  • James Richard Armstrong II

    I don’t do that… I don’t need to do that. My content stands on its own. There is precedence and information here, people. This is not merely my opinion based on nothing at all.

    And because someone agrees with me does not mean I am “swapping accounts.” That statement SCREAMS of arrogance; type arrogance expected from you, someone who is full of it. Someone who can’t even figure out that a “Pragmatic Progressive” is an oxymoron, moron.


  • PragmaticProgressive

    You’ve made it clear that no one understands you and I’m simply pointing out that it hardly makes sense to stay in a community where you’re misunderstood.

  • We are closing this thread as one commenter in particular is proving repeatedly offensive and off-topic.