(NPR) The city of Oakland, Calif., is in the middle of a robbery epidemic. In response, some residents in several Oakland neighborhoods are taking matters into their own hands, hiring private security companies to patrol their neighborhoods.

Overall, robberies in Oakland are up 24 percent over the past year, with armed robberies up 45 percent. Since the recession dried up local tax revenues, the Oakland Police Department has been hamstrung by the loss of more than 200 officers and can’t respond to all the calls it receives for help.

Lower Rockridge, a leafy, upscale community in North Oakland, is one neighborhood that has brought in private security. The streets are lined with small, Craftsman-style bungalows suitable for young families — like that of attorney Dakin Ferris.

Ferris, a former Marine, says he has the martial arts skills to protect himself. But a recent robbery on his block left him and his family feeling vulnerable.

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