Newsom sends 120 CHP officers Oakland due to ‘alarming’ crime

The California Highway Patrol is sending 120 officers to Oakland and other parts of the East Bay as part of what Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling a “targeted crackdown on criminal activity, including vehicle theft, retail theft, and violent crime.”

“As crime rates across California decrease—including right across the Bay in San Francisco—Oakland is seeing the opposite trend,” Newsom said in a statement. “What’s happening in this beautiful city and surrounding area is alarming and unacceptable.”

With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, crime rates fell across much of California and the U.S., including in Oakland. But violent crime surged across the state in 2021 and 2022. Last year, homicides declined across much of the country. In Oakland, however, shootings and homicides have plateaued at higher rates, according to OPD data. And property crime in Oakland—especially commercial burglaries, car break-ins, and auto theft—has recently exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said she’s grateful to Newsom for the help. “The surge of crime and violence that we are seeing in our streets is completely unacceptable,” said Thao. “The City of Oakland is hard at work turning the tide—increasing law enforcement investigations, increasing police recruitment, and investing in community and violence intervention efforts.”

The CHP effort will involve using license plate readers to spot stolen vehicles, police dogs, and air support to track vehicles and people fleeing the police.

This would be the CHP’s second major deployment to Oakland in the past three years. CHP officers were sent to Oakland in September 2021 to focus on sideshows and traffic safety on major roads. CHP was also used in Oakland in 2013 to increase police presence following a spike in violence and property crimes the previous year.

Business groups are happy about the increased police presence. “We are grateful for today’s announcement by Governor Newsom to deploy additional public safety investments to our city in support of a safer and more vibrant Oakland,” said Oakland Chamber of Commerce CEO Barbara Leslie.

Oakland’s crime situation today is not unprecedented. The city’s residents have long suffered from higher rates of crime than most other cities in California. Oakland experienced similar spikes in shootings and homicides in the mid-1980s, early 1990s, 2006-2007, and 2011-2012. Robberies and burglaries have also ebbed and flowed from decade to decade. For example, the proliferation of smartphones in the late 2000s led to a surge in robberies that peaked in 2012 at 4,174 incidents, above last year’s total of 3,690.

Recent media reports have emphasized how many residents don’t feel safe. Business closures due to crime have made international headlines. And in December, an OPD officer was shot and killed while responding to a commercial burglary.

The causes of Oakland’s current public safety problems aren’t entirely clear. According to the Council on Criminal Justice, macroeconomic and society-wide factors like the pandemic altered crime rates in similar ways across cities over the past few years. But now, some cities are improving while others see crime getting worse, suggesting local factors are driving change.

Some activists claim that Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price’s policies of not always seeking the harshest punishment for people charged with committing crimes have led to an increase in offenses. Others blame city leaders for Oakland’s higher crime rates and both DA Price and Mayor Thao are facing potential recalls over crime.

A recent audit found that one possible cause driving the rebound in gun violence in Oakland was disinvestment in the city’s Ceasefire strategy.

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