'A hard moment in time': Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao responds to spike in crime
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'A hard moment in time': Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao responds to spike in crime

May 30, 2023

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao is back from a trade mission in Vietnam, but she returns to a city that is seeing a spike in crime.

"'I feel there that is an uptick in crime, and I know that that is happening. But that is not unique to Oakland," says Mayor Thao.

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According to data obtained by the ABC7 News I-Team, there's been a 27% increase in robberies and a 19% increase in carjackings year-to-date from 2022 to 2023 in Oakland. Though Mayor Thao points out that homicides rates are down, many frustrated residents are demanding more from City Hall. In July, the local chapter of NAACP called for the city to declare a state of emergency.

"A state of emergency? I am the mayor of Oakland. This is why I was able to call the governor directly, and this now why we have the resources of CHP here in the city of Oakland," says Thao.

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She says the CHP has been successfully working in areas along the freeways and in some high crime areas. And she points out that Oakland currently has the highest number of police officers in uniform over the past three years. In addition, she says they are working on ways to increase the police department's capabilities to investigate.

"To actually catch the perpetrators, that means we have to have to the manpower for that," explains Mayor Thao. "We are talking about how do we free up our officers, whether it's civilianizing some positions, so we can get more officers doing investigative work."

But there remains one key vacancy: chief of police. Mayor Thao fired Chief LeRonne Armstrong in Feb. for allegedly failing to discipline officers for misconduct. She says the process to hire a new chief begins with the police commission.

"Their job is to actually go through the hiring process, and they are to refer three top candidates to my office. To this day, I have not yet received those referrals," says Thao.

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Oakland is facing a historic deficit. In light of that, the mayor reminds residents that the city didn't cut funds to violence prevention. And got $1.2 million from the state to fund technology upgrades.

"Arguably, I would say that crimes would be even higher than it is today if I were to have cut in my budget the programs for our after-school programming, for summer programming," says Thao.

Mayor Thao says she understand the sense of urgency, but adds that change takes time.

"Although this is a hard moment in time - this, too, shall pass. Because we are now in the phase of implementing," says Thao. "But I promise you, you will start seeing some of those results moving forward, towards next year."

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