Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley seemed quite neighborly last week when she asked local Realtors for their help in looking for suddenly deteriorating housing and weird traffic patterns.
And with good reason. She'll soon be in our neighborhood, too, when she moves next year with her staff from Oakland into the $147.7 million East County Hall of Justice now under construction next to the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
The new court building will house the county's criminal courts in a five-story courthouse with 13 courtrooms, which will replace the leased Gale/Schenone Hall of Justice at 5672 Stoneridge Drive in Pleasanton.
O'Malley's offices and the county's Public Defender and Probation departments will be located in an adjacent two-story county building with a shared lobby and easy access to the criminal courts building. Civil courts will remain in Oakland with most family courts moving to Hayward. Jury duty, for the most part, will shift to the new Dublin courthouse when it opens in June 2017, although residents in the Tri-Valley could still be called into Oakland for civil cases.
For O'Malley, it's back where she started after earning a law degree from Stanford University and joining a law firm in San Ramon. Her successful legal work on cases involving the Blackhawk Automotive Museum led to an opportunity to move into the county's DA's Office and notable courtroom experiences.
O'Malley said the larger space in Dublin will help her accommodate her 1,200-member staff that includes police officers recruited from city forces who serve as investigators. They're the ones who do all of the investigations of real estate cases as well as environmental, consumer and insurance fraud.
Speaking to members of the Valley Real Estate Network, O'Malley asked them to join her investigators to be on the lookout for graffiti, unusual nighttime traffic, broken windows that aren't repaired and other conditions in otherwise good neighborhoods. Those are signs of unwanted changes, she said.
"We're both looking for signs of deterioration in neighborhoods that could bring the value of houses down and possibly impair the safety of those who live there," she told Realtors.
O'Malley said real estate agents can help her office spot situations of elderly abuse, where mortgage scammers or untrustworthy caregivers are stealing life savings from victims.
"If you go into an older person's house that is up for sale and see no food in the refrigerator or other signs of possible abuse, let us know," O'Malley said. "We're seeing many cases where someone is going into a senior's checkbook and bank account and taking their money away. You can help us find out about these crimes before something catastrophic happens."
She said that often it's an elder's child that's doing this, including selling a home the parent has lived in for half a century or more and had appreciated in value. But when the culprit is identified as a member of the family, the victim hesitates to file charges.
"So we've set up a special court just for elders who are mostly being abused by family members," O'Malley said. "This is helping us protect the elder without making them feel that they are putting their child in prison."
"We do a lot of work with people like you who know neighborhoods and the people who live there and can tell us if they are not being taken care of," she added.
The Alameda County DA's Office can be contacted by mail at its current address: 1225 Fallon St., Suite 900, Oakland, CA 94612, by telephone at (510) 272-6222 or by email at [email protected]