Fed-up residents and concerned political advocacy groups in Oakland — including the city’s local branch of the NAACP — are outraged over a tide of rising crime that overtaken the East Bay’s largest city.
“Oakland residents are sick and tired of our intolerable public safety crisis that overwhelmingly impacts minority communities. Murders, shootings, violent armed robberies, home invasions, car break-ins, sideshows, and highway,” Oakland NAACP president Cynthia Adams and Acts Full Gospel Church’s Bishop Bob Jackson wrote in an open letter to Oakland residents.In the letter dated July 27, Adams and Jackson blame Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price for “failed leadership.”
Price made history in 2022 when she became the first Black woman elected D.A. of Alameda County. A graduate of Yale and the Berkeley School of Law, Price is a strong advocate for criminal justice reforms and is known for her progressive stances on policing and sentencing. Oaklanders have also criticized her office for not pursuing harsher sentences in high profile crime cases, including the shocking murder of Jasper Wu, a 2-year-old who was killed by a stray bullet in a shootout on Interstate 880 in Oakland.“There is nothing compassionate or progressive about allowing criminal behavior to fester and rob Oakland residents of their basic rights to public safety,” Adams and Jackson stated in the letter. “We need our elected leaders to take responsible action to ensure public safety. The best way to start is to declare that we are in a public safety emergency.”In February, Oaklanders launched a Change.org petition to recall Price. As of Aug. 4, 24,504 people had signed it. Two weeks, ago a spokesperson from Price responded to Adams’ and Jackson’s letter. “We are disappointed that a great African American pastor and a great African American organization would take a false narrative on such an important matter. We would expect more from Bishop Bob Jackson and the Oakland Chapter of the NAACP,” said Price’s representative.
According to the Oakland Police Department, homicides are up 80% compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic) numbers. There have also been sharp spikes in assaults (40%) and robberies (20%).When you compare crime rates this year to last year, violent Crime has increased by 15%; burglaries re up nearly 40% and vehicle theft is up by more than 50%. The Oakland branch of the NAACP also points that Blacks have been victimized most by the surge in crimes.“African Americans are disproportionately hit the hardest by crime in East Oakland and other parts of the city. But residents from all parts of the city report that they do not feel safe. Everyone is in danger,” the letter explained. Women have been beaten and robbed by youths; Asian Americans have been assaulted in Chinatown; physical aggression has been used against street vendors; and cameras have been stolen from news crews working in the field; and utility crews are now required to have private security, the letter asserts.
Last week, after a request from Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, Gov. Gavin Newsom agreed to send the California Highway Patrol and automatic license plate readers to assist local law enforcement in their fight against crime.“I am committed to working with community partners and across agencies to ensure we are doing everything we can to both prevent violence and hold people accountable for carrying out crime in our city,” Thao said in a statement.
On Aug. 3, Oakland City Councilmember Kevin Jenkins, who represents District 6, one of the areas in the city most affected by the crime spike thanked Thao and the governor. “I applaud @MayorShengThao for working with @CAgovernor to get Automatic License Plate Readers. I am committed to #TechforSafety in Oakland,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. On July 27, Price and the Oakland police held a public safety meeting at Montclair Presbyterian Church. Frustrated residents at the meeting complained about the violence, brazen robberies in broad daylight, assaults on the elderly, and the low prosecution and conviction rates of people who commit crimes. “As lawyers we have to follow the law,” Price told people in the audience who questioned her about criminals receiving lenient sentences. “The commission in 2017 issued a report that was a commission set up by Gov. (Gavin) Newsom to look for the first time in decades at our sentencing structure. They recommend that we stop using enhancements the way that we have done consistently,” Price continued. But Adams and Jackson insist that authorities should declare “a state of emergency” in Oakland.
“We need our elected leaders to take responsible action to ensure public safety,” they wrote.