Oakland Chinatown leaders plead for more police protection ahead of Lunar New Year celebration

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- In Oakland's Chinatown, community leaders are going public with their pleas for help in combating an increase in violent crime, an effort deemed especially important with the Lunar New Year celebration kicking into high gear.

"We are living in fear every day," said Chiu Szeto, who says he sees it all the time -- the spiking crime, especially robberies in Chinatown, attacks that sometimes are racially motivated.

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"We're like living in a third world country, where we're not being treated like a human being," said Szeto. "The bad guy could rob you pretty much in front of 20 people."

"Unfortunately, they are not only robbing the people, but people are also being hurt," said Carl Chan, President of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

"They appear to be more violent, for whatever reason and that's why we need to stop this now," said Captain Bobby Hookfin with the Oakland Police Department. Hookfin says many cases go unreported by residents who fear retaliation.

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Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf says the city is working to deal with an increase in homicides, with more than a dozen so far this year.

"She still has symptoms of anxiety, dizziness, headache, memory loss," said one man describing the symptoms of a woman recently shot with a flare gun as she simply walked down the street.

"I want to start by apologizing to the victims of these heinous crimes," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who also went on to attack efforts by some on the Oakland City Council to cut the city's police budget by as much as 50 percent.

"I have not forgotten, that this last summer, they brought a proposal to cut $25 million from the Oakland police department as a political statement, not because of operational or financial need," said Schaaf. In contrast, Schaaf called $15 million in recent reductions at the hand of city administrator Ed Reiskin "surgical" to address immediate budget overruns like overtime.

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Still, Chinatown leaders like Chan want the city to immediately reinstate walking patrols and renew its pledge to install a new surveillance camera system in the neighborhood.

However, all the police could promise, given the recent cutbacks, were "more resources," without specifying exactly what that means.

Chiu told ABC7 News, business owners are considering hiring their own armed security.
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