Are Oakland's Chinatown safety measures working? Here's what we uncovered

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Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Are Oakland's Chinatown safety measures working?
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Two years ago, multiple community safety efforts were launched in Oakland's Chinatown and now it appears those efforts may be paying off.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Two years ago, multiple community safety efforts were launched in Oakland's Chinatown after numerous violent crimes in the area. Now it appears those efforts may be paying off and it could be an effective strategy for other parts of the city.

For Paul Ruttana, manager of Thai Taste Kitchen along Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, getting burglarized three times with the most recent just two weeks ago... has been frustrating. He points out areas where suspects entered from the back of the property and front windows. To him and many small business owners, it feels like the crimes are happening too often.

INTERACTIVE: Take a look at the ABC7 Neighborhood Safety Tracker

"We saw car window break-ins a lot. Every night," said Ruttana.

That same day of Thai Taste's latest attack, the rock and mineral "energy store" next door was burglarized. Surveillance shows what appear to be four individuals ransacking the shop. One wielding a gun.

George Lee, the owner of the business for nearly 30 years says this has never happened before and they lost almost $100,000 in merchandise.

But despite feeling under attack, stats from ABC7's Neighborhood Safety Tracker show burglaries are down citywide by 11% compared to the three-year average.

When it comes to robberies, the stats are essentially flat over the last three years.

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So why do the numbers not seem to match reality?

Independent business owners like Ruttana believe the crimes aren't being reported because victims don't have hope they will be solved.

"We can not do anything, which is why they don't want to report." He exclaims.

However, one community never stopped reporting and is now seeing progress.

Stewart Chen, Board President of the Oakland Chinatown Improvement Council says the synergy between police and community has paid off.

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"In Chinatown, we're lucky enough to have enough volunteers to patrol our community," said Chen.

Over the weekend, Chinatown's Toishan volunteer patrol group celebrated two years in service. The group patrols the streets daily and makes its presence known in order to deter crime and aid in reporting. Their formation began after merchants started speaking out about attack after attack.

Oakland police spoke at their celebration and cited encouraging statistics. On stage, a member of OPD said violent crimes were down over 60% from 2020 to 2021 and the next year an additional reduction of 38%.

Chinatown is also slated to get one of the newly launched foot patrol officers who will be deployed in retail corridors in the city. Oakland police tell ABC7 News officers are assigned to the Diamond and Laurel District, Jack London Square, Uptown Business District which includes College Avenue and Piedmont Avenue, Montclair, Old Oakland, Chinatown and Little Saigon along with Frank Ogawa Plaza.

For retailers along Piedmont Avenue, the help can't come soon enough.

"The more patrols the better, because we don't know what's next."

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