Oakland NAACP says the city is in a public safety crisis
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The Oakland NAACP, furious about rising crime it says disproportionally affects Black residents, wants the city to declare a state of emergency because people don’t feel safe.
The local chapter sent a letter to public officials and local lawmakers that says the city is in the midst of an “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.”
Cynthia Adams, the president of the Oakland NAACP told theGrio that residents feel helpless because crime keeps rising and they’re concerned about their safety.
“The problems in Oakland have gotten out of hand. Some people go miles away to go shopping because they’re afraid they might get robbed at their local store,” Adams said. “We had to say something, the community wanted us to say something.”
Data from the Oakland Police Department shows homicides are down by 13% but all violent crime overall is up 15%. Burglaries, car thefts and property crimes have all increased. Much of the crime is happening in East Oakland, which is 50% Black.
While national statistics show crime decreasing across the board, according to a report by the Council on Criminal Justice, the NAACP remains frustrated by what it sees as a broken justice system with no solutions for solving the problem.
In its letter, the NAACP says women have been beaten and robbed downtown, Asians are attacked in Chinatown, and street vendors have been robbed in Fruitvale. “Everyone is in danger,” the letter says.
The letter notes the department needs to hire 500 officers to meet the level experts say is needed and has struggled with a 911 system victimized by a ransomware attack and technical issues that took the service down for a time.
“Residents now know that help will not come when danger confronts them. Worse, criminals know that too,” the letter says. The NAACP is also critical of the push to defund the police, which took off nationwide after George Floyd’s murder in 2020.
The Oakland City Council has since changed its stance from defunding to re-funding the police.
Adams also pointed to the lack of jobs and economic opportunities as a contributing factor. “We all know that when there are no jobs, crime goes up,” she said. The unemployment rate for Black residents in Oakland sits at 8.9%, more than twice the 4.2% for white residents.
The organization has tried to meet with the mayor, Sheng Thao, and other city officials but hasn’t as of yet. The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment from theGrio.
Adams said the NAACP chapter is in contact with the national organization to get any help possible. In the letter, the Oakland chapter stresses the importance of giving the city’s youth “alternatives to the crippling desperation that leads to crime, drugs and prison” and points to tools like economic opportunities, education and mentorship.
“We urge African Americans to speak out and demand improved public safety,” the letter says. “There is nothing compassionate or progressive about allowing criminal behavior to fester and rob Oakland residents of their basic rights to public safety.”