Oakland’s crime ’emergency’ is a warning to other American cities

Oakland is experiencing so much violent crime that organizations as diverse as the city police officers’ association and the local branch of the NAACP are calling for law enforcement to get more support.

In the year to July 30, crime increased by 26 percent in the California city, according to Oakland Police Department (OPD) statistics. The figures are particularly stark for vehicle theft and knifepoint robbery.

The news comes amid widespread debate over crime in Democratic-controlled cities. Rising crime has been attributed variously to the coronavirus pandemic and the changes in policing introduced after the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

Oakland—a liberal stronghold that has a Democratic mayor, state senator and U.S. congresswoman—recorded a 52 percent increase in motor vehicle theft in the year to July 30.

The OPD data, provided to Newsweek by the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, also includes a 44 percent rise in robberies involving a knife and a 22 percent increase for robberies of any kind.

Oakland police officer
Stock photo of an Oakland PD officer. Robberies involving a knife have risen by 44 percent in the city over the past year, according to police statistics.
Justin Sullivan/GETTY

Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, told Newsweek: “The public safety situation in Oakland, fueled by rising crime and a revolving door justice system, is exacerbated by too few cops struggling to keep up with the surge in criminal activity and increased calls for help from our residents.”

Donelan urged local people to “engage our city leaders in a critical conversation about their strategies to counteract Oakland’s rising crime rates.”

His comments came after the local branch of the NAACP, America’s oldest civil rights organization, urged elected officials to “declare a state of emergency and bring together massive resources to address our public safety crisis.”

The Oakland NAACP said in a statement last week: “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 shootouts have become a pervasive fixture of life in Oakland.”

The branch linked rising crime in the city to “failed leadership, including the movement to defund the police … and the proliferation of anti-police rhetoric.” It also cited what it described as the local district attorney’s “unwillingness to charge and prosecute people who murder and commit life-threatening serious crimes.”

Cynthia Adams, president of the Oakland NAACP, previously told Newsweek: “We need the police.”

She added: “There’s so much crime going in Oakland now. A lot of women are getting robbed … It’s just scary. We have to come out with something to try and get this city back together.”

Newsweek has contacted the Oakland Police Department and Mayor Sheng Thao for comment via email.

A 44-year-old woman and her 13-year-old daughter were found shot dead inside an Oakland apartment in April.


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