Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday he would send 120 highway patrol officers to Oakland as part of a new state law enforcement campaign targeting a surge in violent crime and theft that has put pressure policy on politicians, divided Democrats and reinforced criticism of California’s criminal justice policy.
Newsom’s decision to increase the police presence in Oakland comes amid an avalanche of headlines about the city’s crime rates, business closings and campaigns to oust the city’s mayor and district attorney. chief of Alameda County.
The problems in Oakland and egregious retail crimes in California’s big cities have inspired debate over whether to reform Proposition 47, a ballot measure approved by voters in 2014 that reduced some drug crimes and from theft to crimes in order to reduce incarceration. rates and encourage people to seek treatment.
“What is happening in and around this great city is alarming and unacceptable,” Newsom said in a statement. “I am sending the California Highway Patrol to assist local efforts to restore the sense of safety that the hardworking people of Oakland and the East Bay demand and deserve.”
Violent crime increased 21% in 2023 compared to the previous year, according to the Oakland Police Department’s year-end crime report. Homicides have exceeded the 100 mark for the fourth year in a row. Thefts increased by 38% and burglaries by 23%. Motor vehicle thefts increased by 45% in 2023 compared to the previous year.
The number of homeless people in Oakland also increased by nearly 1,000 between 2019 and 2022, to a total of 5,055 people sleeping in tents, cars, RVs, abandoned buildings or on the streets.
Newsom’s GOP critics have latched onto images of encampments and stories about In-N-Out Burger and other prominent businesses closing due to crime, the result of what they call lawlessness under his direction. Both issues remain political vulnerabilities for Democrats and for the governor as he expands his national profile and considers his next political role after leaving office in 2027.
Despite growing concerns about crime, Newsom said early data suggests the increases are unique to Oakland, with violent crime rates declining in Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2023.
The governor’s office said Newsom’s law enforcement campaign in Oakland would increase the CHP’s presence in the city and the East Bay by nearly 900 percent. The state also deploys license plate readers and specialized units with police dogs and air support to target auto thefts, merchandise thefts, retail crimes and violent crimes.
Newsom is focusing on Oakland after the state sent a few agents there in August at the request of local leaders, leading to the arrest of 100 suspected criminals and the recovery of 193 stolen vehicles, according to his office. Newsom received another request for help from a group of local business leaders and community advocates he met with in January.
“The rise in crime and violence we are seeing on our streets is completely unacceptable,” Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said in a statement.
Thao said Oakland has also taken its own steps to address the problem, such as increasing police investigations, increasing police recruitment and investing in community and anti-violence intervention efforts.
Concerns over car burglaries and gun violence have had a ripple effect in the community, where Thao and Alameda County Dist. Atty. Pamela Price faces efforts to recall them from office.
Large companies operating in Oakland, such as Clorox, Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield, have reportedly encouraged their employees to be more cautious when coming to the office, citing concerns about crime.
Meanwhile, businesses like In-N-Out near Oakland International Airport and Denny’s have announced closures due to employee safety concerns, although it is unclear whether these are solely related to crime issues or if undisclosed financial issues contributed to their closure. In November, Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the relocation of the Oakland A’s, the city’s last professional sports franchise, to Las Vegas, dealing another blow to the beleaguered city.
Frustrated voters and local activists have called in recent months for city officials to be more aggressive in their response to rising crime rates and for Thao to declare a state of emergency.
The Oakland branch of the NAACP released a letter in July ridiculing what it called failed progressive policies that allowed street crime to flourish, and calling on politicians to act quickly to solve the problem.
“Oakland residents are fed up with our intolerable public safety crisis that is overwhelmingly impacting minority communities,” the letter said. “If there are no consequences for crime in Oakland, crime will continue to skyrocket.”
James Burch, deputy director of the nonprofit Anti Police-Terror Project in Oakland, said he was disappointed to see the governor sending more police officers to the city.
“If the mayor and governor’s goal was to make headlines with this investment, they succeeded,” he said. “If their goal, however, was to impact rates of violence on the streets of the City of Oakland, we have not seen any data or research to suggest that this investment will be successful.”
Burch called for investing in crime prevention strategies, such as supporting violence interrupters who go into communities and work with people at the center of cycles of violence.
“Having the CHP police or patrol major thoroughfares is not a proven strategy for reducing the number of homicides and robberies on our city’s streets,” Burch said.
In May, Newsom also deployed the California National Guard and California Highway Patrol to San Francisco to help combat drug trafficking and trafficking in some of the hardest-hit parts of the city, such as the Tenderloin and South neighborhoods. of Market. Those efforts led to 460 arrests as of late January, and approximately 18,000 grams of fentanyl and 5,000 grams of methamphetamine were seized, according to the governor’s office.
Newsom has continued to resist calls to reform Proposition 47, including from moderate Democrats at the state Capitol. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) has made tackling property crime rates a top priority during his first full year in office, and several Democrats have introduced bills in recent years aimed at dismantling parts of Proposition 47.
Critics have spent the past decade blaming the measure for rising crime rates and have described the law as a far-left policy that encourages crime because it reduces criminal penalties. Newsom rejects the criticism, calling them right-wing attacks misguided by a lack of data.
In January, Newsom called for a legislative package to address property crime concerns with a focus on professional thieves, but without significantly reworking Proposition 47 or lowering the $950 theft threshold that triggers a crime . Newsom awarded more than $267 million to 55 California cities and counties last year to combat organized retail crime.
Oakland missed the deadline to apply for the funding.
Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.latimes.com