Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has decried claims of an uptick in crime under her leadership – despite the city seeing a spike in robberies over the past year.
‘Crime in Oakland has been on a steady rise since 2019,’ Thao told KRON 4. ‘It is dishonest for anyone to say that crime started rising under my watch only.’
According to data from the Oakland Police Department, Thao, who assumed office in 2023, is only partially correct.
Total homicides saw an uptick in 2019, but rates have remained relatively steady over the last three years.
Robbery, however, saw a 38 percent increase between 2022 and 2023 alone.
Oakland Mayor Shang Thao told KRON 4 that crime has ‘been on a steady rise since 2019,’ several years before she assumed office
Video released by Oakland police in August shows a woman being pistolwhipped by two men after refusing to give up her purse
The men dig through her pockets as she lays unconscious on the ground
Auto burglaries have been rising since 2020, reaching a new peak in 2023 that has not been seen in the past decade.
Commercial burglaries, for the most part, have also steadily increased over the last five years and have almost tripled since 2019.
In August, shocking video circulated showing a woman being confronted by two men who tried to snatch her purse before pistolwhipping her.
She fell to the ground before both men rifled through her pockets.
One month earlier, the Oakland Police Department issued a public safety advisory citing an uptick in home invasion robberies.’
OPD urged residents to trim hedges and shrubs to ‘eliminate potential hiding spots,’ install home security systems and use outdoor lighting with motion sensors.
Thao said her office had implemented new neighborhood strategies since then and were already seeing success.
In Chinatown, Uptown and Jack London Square areas, she said, ‘We have experienced 42 percent decrease in robberies, 32 percent decrease in auto burglaries…and a 38 percent decrease in theft and 13 percent decrease in commercial burglaries.’
While rates for certain types of crime have remained relatively stable, robbery saw a 38 percent increase between 2022 and 2023 alone
Auto burglaries reached a never-before-seen peak in 2023 and commercial burglaries have nearly tripled since 2019
Thao has been accused of creating a public safety crisis by one group of detractors that aims to get her kicked out of office
The group, led by retired Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte, accuses Thao of ‘systematically dismantling’ the police department
Her office also plans to reinvigorate the city’s ceasefire program, which connects those with the highest risk of gun violence involvement with life coaches.
Beginning in 2013, homicides started tracking downward and hit a low of 67 in 2018. Since then, rates have been increasing, reaching 120 in 2023.
Similarly, shootings with injury began decreasing in 2013 and reached a low of 274 in 2018, only to surge to 509 in 2023.
An audit of the program by the California Partnership for Safe Communities suggests that these spikes are due to the city gradually walking away from the ceasefire strategy.
Beginning in 2016 and 2017 and accelerating in 2019 and 2020, ‘each essential element of the strategy was significantly watered down, resources stripped away, or refocused,’ the report read.
This began under Thao’s predecessor, Libby Schaff, who assumed office in 2015 and admitted last year that efforts to defund the city’s police department went ‘too far.’
The ceasefire program is expected to be up and running in six weeks, but this will likely not be enough to sate Thao’s critics, some of whom intend to get her kicked out of office.
Earlier this month, a group led by retired Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte sent out an official notice of intent to start the recall process.
The organizers accused Thao of creating a public safety crisis by ‘systematically dismantling’ OPD, firing former police chief LeRonne Armstrong and failing to appoint a successor.
‘Lives have been lost, property destroyed, businesses have shut down, and fear and collective trauma are daily occurrences for Oaklanders,’ the detractors wrote in an official notice.
Thao’s chief of staff, Leigh Hanson, said in a statement that the recall campaign is ‘led by losers.’
‘I know for a fact that if Mayor Thao had lost the election, she would have conceded gracefully and found a legitimate job that contributed to moving our community forward,’ Hanson said.
‘I have faith that Oaklanders are smarter than this, and will resist the urge to be distracted by a desperate attempt for relevance.’