By Jonathan Hale for Make Oakland Better Now!
For many Oakland residents, the feeling of dread that accompanies walking outside to find the remnants of one’s car window littered in small glass cubes on the curb has become all too familiar.
Total crime has increased 28% in Oakland as of September 3rd, notes District 1 City Councilmember Dan Kalb in a recommendation that the council adopt a broad-ranging resolution prioritizing public safety. The proposed resolution mandates a formal analysis of the impacts of programs like Oakland’s Ceasefire and MACRO units, as well as the creation of a report outlining improvements to the city’s dysfunctional 9-1-1 dispatch system.
Kalb’s district, which comprises much of North Oakland and Rockridge, has been the site of several brazen robberies mostly targeting women in recent months. And North Oakland and Rockridge are far from alone. In East Oakland a mother of four was shot and killed recently while sleeping on her couch by someone who deliberately fired into her home, a woman walking her dog at Lake Merritt on Labor Day was critically injured by a stray bullet from a gun battle between cars that were driving by, and on one Wednesday in July 4 people were murdered in a span of 10 hours.
And these are only some of the more headline grabbing stories. Data from the Council for Criminal Justice suggest that Oakland’s recent increase in violent crime has not mirrored trends in other large cities, which experienced year-over-year decreases for most offenses during the first half of 2023.
Moreover, Oakland is markedly more dangerous than other Bay Area cities. Adjusted for population, Oakland residents are 2 ½ times likelier than San Franciscans and three times likelier than San Jose residents to become victims of a violent crime.
Public safety concerns have led public officials to recommend drastic measures for citizens to ensure their safety.
This summer, the Oakland Police Department advised residents in some neighborhoods to reinforce their doors and upgrade home security systems in response to an uptick in home invasions. In a recent interview on KTVU, Mayor Sheng Thao expressed her preparedness to call for a state of emergency if a new police chief was not selected by the end of the year. Oakland has been without a police chief since February of this year, when Mayor Thao fired former police chief LeRonne Armstrong following allegations of misconduct.
Local businesses are experiencing much of the recent surge in crime. On September 1st, a consortium of Oakland business owners sent an email to government officials titled “URGENT PLEA – Sustain Small Business in Oakland”. The email, which was signed by owners of 165 Oakland businesses, expressed the painful tension between love for Oakland and subsequent dismay at the proliferation of crime and disorder throughout the city.
“We demand that our government acknowledge this is a state of emergency,” the email unequivocally stated. Business owners also called for the city to take concrete steps to address the issue, including increasing the presence of public safety officers, expanding the use of automated license plate readers, and providing grants and financial relief to small businesses experiencing break-ins.
Loren Taylor, former District 6 council member and mayoral candidate, specified that the city should declare a “level two” state of emergency as prescribed by the city’s Emergency Operations Plan. This would acknowledge an “emergency where local resources are not adequate” and allow for the expedited recruitment of emergency management personnel.
Former vice mayor and city councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, now Dean of Students at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, echoed other’s calls for a state of emergency in a Facebook post.
“Declaring a state of emergency is the first step in admitting we have a problem and that we all must work together to solve it,” Washington said.
But despite calls for action from all quarters, crime is still on the rise, Oakland lacks a police chief, and city residents are on edge.
At the forthcoming city council meeting on September 19th, citizens and leaders will continue to press for concrete changes to address increases in crime. As months roll by with little apparent change, the stakes seem ever higher.
Make Oakland Better Now! urges residents to participate in this important meeting. See details here noting agenda #9 as the referenced City Resolution topic. You may sign up for a speaker card here to voice an opinion at the very beginning of the meeting.
MOBN! will continue to monitor the issue and report on developments as they arise.